The Phoenix Suns have agreed terms with Utah Jazz assistant coach and former Sun Jeff Hornacek to fill their head coaching void.
Per CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, Hornacek’s deal will last three years and be worth just under $6 million, with a team option for a fourth season. The Suns started the season with Alvin Gentry calling the shots but removed him midway through this season, replacing him with Lindsey Hunter as interim coach. The team interviewed Hunter for the full-time job after he led the Suns to a 12-29 record in the remaining 41 games of the season.
The players never really backed Hunter though, and now he finds himself on the outside as a former fan favorite returns to Phoenix: Hornacek played with the Suns from 1986-92, making the All-Star team in his final season.
After Phoenix, he played for the Utah Jazz under legendary coach Jerry Sloan before joining his staff as a shooting coach, steadily progressing to the role of assistant coach after Sloan’s departure and Corbin’s arrival.
The Suns had a disappointing season – even for the standards of a team expecting little from the current season. The roster is finally undergoing a much-needed rebuild after losing Steve Nash to the Lakers before the season. In return for the future Hall of Fame point guard, Phoenix scored a stash of future draft picks that will help the team load up on players with high potential and low salaries.
Hornacek has the benefit of years of experience under Sloan, one of the league’s all-time great coaches and as Tyrone Corbin’s assistant. He is also well-known to Phoenix fans after forming a key part of the Suns unit that got to two consecutive Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990, losing to the Showtime Lakers and Drexler’s Trail Blazers respectively.
The Suns have fallen on hard times since Mike D’Antoni’s departure after the 2008 season. The Suns had made the post-season seven times in nine years and all the way to the Conference Finals in 2006 riding Steve Nash in D’Antoni’s fabled Seven Seconds Or Less offense. The Suns made the playoffs in the 2009-10 season but have failed since, compiling a 198-196 record.
Hornacek’s first task will be to decide which prospect to select with the fifth pick in the upcoming draft and sort out which of the players currently on the roster can be traded for young assets or yet more picks as the rebuild enters full flow.