Coming off an impressive 48-34 campaign, the Phoenix Suns have been one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments this season. Phoenix currently stands 12-20, 12th in a down Western Conference.
In need of a shakeup, the team dismissed assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting on Monday, while retaining head coach Jeff Hornacek. They will be replaced on the bench by recently retired point guard Earl Watson and former NBA D-League head coach Nate Bjorkgren.
Via ESPN, here’s Suns general manager Ryan McDonough’s statement on the changes:
“It is never easy to make changes to a coaching staff in the middle of a season, but we feel Earl and Nate are ready to take the next steps in their careers and provide some creative ideas to our group,” general manager Ryan McDonough said in a statement. “We thank Mike and Jerry for their contributions. They are both good coaches who made significant contributions to our team winning 87 games over the previous two seasons.”
Just about everything has gone wrong for the Suns in recent weeks. They’re 5-15 in their last 20 games and on Saturday, lost to the 2-30 76ers. Adding insult to injury, guard Eric Bledsoe could be out until after the All-Star Break with a knee injury.
Hornacek has been rumored to be on the hot seat, less than a year after he was the NBA’s darling for leading an undersized Suns team into playoff contention. Things began to go wrong around the trade deadline, when Phoenix traded Isiah Thomas and Goran Dragic and landed Brandon Knight, so maybe the front office should be looking inward instead of blaming the coaching staff for the team’s slide.
Regardless, firing assistant coaches feels like a half-measure. Either Hornacek remains the right coach for this team or he doesn’t. Neutering him by dismissing his assistants doesn’t seem to accomplish much. Expect much larger change if things in the desert don’t turn around quickly.