NBA basketball: Jeff Hornacek era set to begin in Phoenix
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jeff Hornacek era is expected to be made official today by the Phoenix Suns.
Hornacek will leave one of his former teams behind — having played and coached with the Jazz for more than a dozen years — while rejoining his first NBA organization as its head coach.
So long, Utah winters.
Hello, Arizona sunshine.
It's been reported by multiple media outlets that Hornacek will have a three-year guaranteed contract — and a team option on a fourth season — as the Suns' bench boss. The Arizona Republic wrote that his introduction as the new coach will take place this morning.
"Congratulations, Jeff," former Phoenix star Charles Barkley said Sunday on TNT. "Welcome to the Titanic."
Hornacek was drafted 46th overall by Phoenix in 1986, and he played there for six seasons before being traded to Philadelphia as part of the Barkley swap.
Though he's been on the Jazz's coaching staff since 2007 in various capacities, including as a full-time assistant under Tyrone Corbin the past two years, Hornacek's family has remained in Phoenix since after he retired as a player in 2000.
The 50-year-old is the 16th head coach in the Suns' history. Last season, Phoenix fired Alvin Gentry and then decided not to rehire interim coach Lindsey Hunter.
Hornacek told The Arizona Republic that his new team's style will likely resemble the up-tempo play used on teams of his old Phoenix coach, Cotton Fitzsimmons.
“I had some great coaches to learn from," said Hornacek, who played for Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan from 1994 through 2000, a stretch that included two NBA finals appearances. "But today’s game is more wide open, so you’ll probably see more of a Cotton influence to my style of play."
Suns TV analyst Tom Chambers, the former Ute who also played for both Utah and Phoenix during his NBA career, liked the choice made by the organization's new management.
Houston assistant J.B. Bickerstaff and Hunter were among the other candidates.
“It’s the right hire,” Chambers told The Arizona Republic. “I’m ecstatic because I think it’s a tremendous choice for the team. He meets all the credentials and more, and the Valley knows him. I don’t think they could have done any better. He’s smart. He has a presence. He can coach. It’ll energize the people who have been around him and his professionalism.”
The Jazz haven't announced who will replace Hornacek on Corbin's staff, although player personnel coach Brad Jones or his assistant, Johnnie Bryant, are among the possibilities.
Corbin did not respond to a request for a comment over the holiday weekend.
Hornacek has a lot of work to do to turn things around in Phoenix. The Suns are coming off the second-worst season in franchise history, going 25-57 in 2012-13 and finishing in last place in the Western Conference.
Hornacek isn't the only new employee in Phoenix, either.
Ryan McDonough, a 33-year-old who's been with Boston for a decade, was hired as the Suns' general manager in May. He replaced Lance Blanks, who was fired in April.
Phoenix does have six first-round selections in the next three drafts, so Hornacek will get plenty of chances to help young players develop as he has a track record of doing over the past several years in Utah.
"Congrats to my man Coach Jeff Hornacek," Jazz small forward DeMarre Carroll tweeted. "He is goin to make a great coach. He the one gave me confidence in my shot. #respect #welldeserve."
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