The Jeff Hornacek era came to end in Phoenix on Sunday night, as the Suns fired the head coach in the midst of his third season at the helm, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
Hornacek was reportedly relieved from his coaching duties in a conversation with Suns GM Ryan McDonough on Sunday night following the team’s 91-78 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The Suns leave Dallas losers of 19 of their 21 games, including 14 consecutive losses on the road.
Rumors began accumulating in late December that the Suns were contemplating whether or not to make a coaching change after Phoenix fell to 11th place in the Western Conference. The Suns decided to give Hornacek, who played for the Suns from 1986-1992, what they called a “second chance” to turn things. After dropping 19 of 21 and 14 in a row on the road, McDonough and the rest of the Suns management felt that they had seen enough and a change needed to be made.
For the Suns, the 2015-2016 season began with hopes of a playoff birth, as the team was seemingly on their way up. Hornacek helped coach Phoenix to records of 48-34 in 2013-2014 (finished 9th in West), and 39-43 in 2014-2015 (finished 10th). The Suns were also able to land free agent center Tyson Chandler with a four-year $52 million deal over the offseason, which created even more hype heading into the 2015-2016 season. After Phoenix began to fall in the Western standings in mid-December, it was clear that something was wrong. At first, many questioned whether the Suns were putting the right personnel on the floor and if the leadership on the team (Chandler, Morris, Bledsoe) was doing a good enough job of helping guide the team’s youth (Knight, Booker, Goodwin, etc).
The month of losing following the second chance give to coach Hornacek proves a couple of things:
– There certainly are some issues inside the Suns locker room
– The players gave up on their coach
– Changes need to be made
A team that doesn’t respect or play for their coach who is on the hot seat is a classic recipe for disaster, and that is exactly what the Phoenix Suns had become over the last several months. Just a week ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers dismissed their head coach, David Blatt, despite being atop the Eastern Conference standings. One of the main reasons for Blatt’s dismissal, reportedly, was that he had lost control and respect of his players. If a winning team such as the Cavaliers are going to move on from their coach when players give up on them, then there is no question that a franchise falling off the postseason cliff such as the Phoenix Suns should also do what they can to try to change things up when the players are not playing for their coach.
A once beloved member of the Phoenix Suns in the late 80’s and early 90’s turned coach became a scapegoat for a team that clearly has a lot of issues. Obviously, some of the blame for the incredible amount of losing of late by the Suns can be attributed to Hornacek, but the players also deserve a good portion of the blame.
Do not expect whoever the new coach of the Suns is to immediately change the culture of the team and turn things around in the standings, as this franchise has a lot of issues to work out before people can even begin thinking about playoffs in the coming seasons.
Either one of the two Suns assistant coaches, Corey Gaines or Earl Watson, are expected to be named interim head coach, according to Yahoo! Sports.