Lon Babby To Step Down As Suns President Of Basketball Operations

Jun. 10, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby speaks to the media about his decision to step down at a pre-draft workout. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns
Jun. 10, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby speaks to the media about his decision to step down at a pre-draft workout. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Bourguet-Valley of the Suns /

Before a new set of Phoenix Suns draft workouts took place Wednesday morning, the team announced that president of basketball operations Lon Babby would be stepping down and taking a reduced role as a “senior advisor” starting Aug. 1. According to the release, general manager Ryan McDonough will lead the basketball operations department at that time.

“I am extremely grateful to Robert for accommodating my wish to reduce my workload a little bit,” Babby said. “I was looking at a picture the other day of myself at my first press conference and the only president that’s aged more than me in the last five years is Barack Obama.”

Assistant general managers Pat Connelly and Trevor Bukstein will assist McDonough in taking on increased responsibilities within the organization as Babby reduces his workload by about 50 percent in his new role.

“Lon’s free to kind of do whatever he wants, to come and go as he pleases but certainly when there are high-level decisions, most decisions we’ll lean on him for his expertise and counsel and we know he’ll always be available and always give a good opinion,” McDonough said.

Babby will still provide strategic counsel and input to the basketball operations department, particularly in the area of contract negotiations and salary cap management.

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“We’re a little younger as a staff, we’re a little less experienced,” McDonough said. “Pat, Trevor and I are all in our mid-30s so we don’t have his kind of wealth of knowledge and experience in terms of negotiating contracts. I think in that area, he does a great job of telling us how a player and the player’s agent will view things from their side because he has been to their side, he’s been in their shoes, he kind of knows what they’re looking for.”

In August 2010, Babby joined the Suns after a 35-year career as an attorney with the DC-based Williams & Connolly, LLP. He entered player representation in 1994 and had been involved on the team side with the NFL’s Washington Redskins (1977-84) and MLB’s Baltimore Orioles (1979-94).

Babby said he’s proud of the change he’s seen within the Suns organization in terms of the infrastructure during his five-year tenure as president, but he also regrets that the on-court product hasn’t been better. The team has not made the playoffs since he joined in 2010.

“I think I played well to my strengths, but if I’m objective like I always try to be, I’m disappointed of our success on the court and ultimately that’s the most important thing,” Babby said. “So I think I’ll look back on it with mixed feelings. I’ll feel better about it when this team is back in the playoffs, back to competing and that’s why I’m delighted to still be part of it.”

So what will change for McDonough, Connelly and Bukstein in terms of their day-to-day responsibilities?

All three will be taking on increased roles, with McDonough mentioning that most of the new responsibilities include things most people don’t see, such as managing the front office, scouting staff, training staff, coaching staff, negotiating new employee contracts, interacting with agents and other teams to work out trades and taking the time to get out and scout other players.

“As far as what’ll change, I’ll probably just do a little more of some of those things,” McDonough said. “I do a little bit of all of them now, but Lon has helped me in that regard and again, I’ll lean on Trevor Bukstein and Pat Connelly heavily as I try to best allocate my time, but those guys have been tremendous assets to me. It’s a team effort, I’ll probably do more but day-to-day I don’t think a ton will change.”

The front office will be banking on a team effort from the three GMs to make up for Babby’s reduced role, which Babby says he’s going to use to head back East and spend more time in the community and with his family.

“I’m not retiring, I’m not interested in retiring, I’m just interested in really having more psychological freedom, not feeling guilty if I miss a game, miss a practice, go back and spend more time with my grandkids,” he said. “I have a lot of Jewish guilt so it’s a good thing for me to deal with it this way.”

The press release mentions that McDonough, Connelly and Bukstein are all signed to multiple year contracts, but McDonough would not comment on any possible extensions for the three of them.

“I guess some of that I still view as sacred, maybe I’m a little in the minority there,” he said. “All I’ll say on that is reiterate what’s in the release: we’re all under contract for multiple years, myself, Pat Connelly, Trevor Bukstein and the top guys in the front office. So we have multiple years on our contracts, hopefully we’re here a long time.”

Babby stressed that this is the perfect time for him to take a step back, not only for him personally, but because the Suns have the right people in place to make it happen.

“Part of my job, maybe the most important part of my job, is getting the right people in place for when I’d be ready to make this move and I feel like we’re in that position not just with Ryan and the basketball operations but the entire organization.”

Next: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: Phoenix Suns 2015 Draft Profile

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