Published 6:57 PM EDT Oct 8, 2018
Nine days before the NBA’s regular season begins, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver on Monday fired general manager Ryan McDonough.
“After much thought and a long evaluation of our basketball operations, I have decided to relieve Ryan McDonough of his duties as general manager of the Phoenix Suns,” Suns owner Robert Sarver said in a statement. “Our focus in the short term is to prepare for the upcoming NBA season and to continue pursuing opportunities to strengthen our roster.
“Over the course of the season, we will explore both internal and external options as we look to restructure our basketball front office leadership. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to thank Ryan for his efforts and contributions during his five-plus years with the Suns. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
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GM duties will be shared by vice president of basketball operations and former NBA player James Jones and assistant GM Trevor Bukstein. Jones will handle basketball operations and oversight of coaches, players and staff, and Bukstein will manage player transactions, according to a news release from the team.
The Suns hired McDonough from Boston in 2013, and McDonough hired Jeff Hornacek to coach the Suns, who went from 25 wins in 2012-13 to 48 wins in 2013-14. McDonough was runner-up to San Antonio’s R.C. Buford for executive of the year.
But the Suns have been in decline since then, winning just 39, 23, 24 and 21 games in consecutive seasons. They are also on their third coach, having just hired Igor Kokoskov in May.
McDonough’s tenure has also been marked by draft picks that didn’t work out and inability to land or retain a top-notch point guard. At one point, the Suns had Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. They were all traded.
If McDonough knew something was amiss, he didn't let on Sunday, as he talked to rival executives and agents on the phone, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
While McDonough takes the fall now, the spotlight returns to Sarver and his ownership of the Suns. He bought the team in 2004 and had success under Mike D’Antoni and a solid front office that included Steve Kerr and David Griffin.
But after D’Anonti left the Suns in 2008, Phoenix has made the playoffs just once – in 2010 under Coach Alvin Gentry.
Sarver is regarded as a hands-on owner, and the timing of this move is suspect. Sarver had all offseason after the draft and free agency to evaluate McDonough.
Last season, just days saying the Suns had a solid and high-level plan, Coach Earl Watson was fired after an 0-3 start. Recent seasons have been marred by player unhappiness.
Described as competitive, Sarver oscillates between patient and impatient. He's willing to rebuild one minute and wants to win now the next. Sarver needs to find a GM who can execute his vision, similar to the situation Dallas has with hands-on owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.