Suns Fire Hornacek Because They Can’t Fire Themselves

The predictable became the reality when Phoenix gave their Jeff Hornacek experiment the heave-ho and ushered him out the door for (perhaps) another offensive minded, defensively challenged, ex-player coach. The firing of Hornacek made zero sense when you consider how the NBA functions these days. If you are going to be bad- the Suns were awful- then be so atrocious you win as few games as possible and have a shot at Ben Simmons, the Lamar Odom/LeBron James/Blake Griffin point forward archetype.

Hornacek took the fall for his shortcomings as a coach. He wasn’t particularly good at dealing with players the way a coach has to be. Hard some of the time, understanding some of the time, bossy, it’s my way, I care about you. A coach has to embody many personailities on a given day. Hornacek just wasn’t ready.

Since late December, the Suns have been the worst team in basketball which is saying something given the status of the Lakers and 76ers. In that 6-week time span, the Suns were last in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, and point differential.

Hornacek, and his coaching, and whatever leadership intangibles he brought to his job, turned into a problem. But it wasn’t the problem.

Jeff Hornacek W-L Offensive Efficiency Defensive Efficiency Western Conference Standings
2015-16 14-35 102.4 (27th) 108.5 (25th) 13th (tie with Timberwolves)
2014-15 39-43 105.3 (16th) 106.2 (17th) 10th

In 48 seasons of NBA basketball, the Suns have been to the playoffs 29 times. They have lost in the first round 11 times. They haven’t been to the playoffs in five years and aren’t going this year.

The Suns traded Steve Nash to the Lakers in 2012 and got a lot of yuck in the draft they parlayed into money saved to get veteran players like Isaiah Thomas (who they traded) and Wesley Johnson (who left via free agency) and Marcus Morris (who they traded).

The Suns have a max player in Eric Bledsoe who has a detailed injury history and yet they opened up the vault anyway. They gave a lot of money to Brandon Knight who will never be an All-Star, never impact winning or losing, never organize the offense and never guard anyone. They made room for Knight on the roster by trading Isaiah Thomas, who is an All-Star this season. They signed Tyson Chandler and chased a LaMarcus Aldridge dream that alienated Markieff Morris enough to stage a rebellion and he is still bitter about how it all went down. They alienated Goran Dragic enough for him to publicly tell the media he didn’t trust the Suns.

Jeff Hornacek wasn’t responsible for the utter failure that has been the Suns front office, spearheaded by owner Robert Sarver. All Hornacek was asked to do was pick up the pieces and try to make it work. But you can’t pick up broken glass without getting cut.

Are the Suns a mess? Yes.

When they fired Hornacek’s assistants, you knew his day was coming. The structure that Hornacek was trying to build was impossibly flawed. Guard sets are dominating the NBA. But you can’t do it without a guard taller than 6-3 when you have shooting guards in the West that are 6-5, 6-6, and 6-7. The Suns are a 3-point shooting team that play no defense. The Suns are a 3-point shooting team that have negative numbers toughness in the backcourt. They are a worse defensive team than the Lakers. They contest zero shots and opponents shoot 47% against them. They don’t guard the three point line. 28 NBA teams turn the ball over fewer times than the Suns.

Phoenix Apathy Opponent Points Opponent FG% Opponent 3-Point % Turnovers
2015-16 106.5 (28th) 47.3% (30th) 37.8% (29th) 16.2 (29th)

For a hot minute, it looked the Suns were on to something. 48 wins in Hornacek’s first year and he was rewarded with a playoff shut out. Almost, but not quite there. The expectations were through the roof in the Suns followup year but it was an illusion, those 48 wins. The Suns were who they have always been since the trade of Steve Nash, a team rebuilding. Their futility hasn’t helped bring the paying customers in. The Suns are 20th in home attendance, worse than Charlotte, Sacramento and Orlando.

It’s hysterically Phoenix Suns-like that they want Steve Nash to coach them, someone who has never coached before, who never played a lick of defense but who is the one bright spot the organization can point to. Jeff Hornacek taught them not a damn thing. It’s like that sometimes. You just can’t get out of your own way.

You are your own worst enemy.

photo via llananba