With Opening Night of the NBA season just 8 days away, the Phoenix Suns on Monday stunningly fired GM Ryan McDonough after 5 years on the job.
The Phoenix Suns last reached the postseason in 2010 and last season had the franchise’s worst record since their expansion season of 1968-69.
After five years and diminishing returns — including three straight seasons of at least 58 losses and the team beginning the year with its fourth head coach in four years, the Suns on Monday fired general manager Ryan McDonough, per ESPN.com’s Marc J. Spears.
Vice president of basketball operations James Jones will oversee coaches, players and staff, while assistant GM Trevor Bukstein will handle player transactions on an interim basis while the Suns look for a permanent solution at GM.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski floated former Minnesota Timberwolves president and Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale as a potential candidate for the gig.
As for the timing? Mike Lynch of Basketball-Reference.com says this is the first NBA general manager to be fired in October in 36 years, since then-San Diego Clippers GM Ted Podleski was fired by owner Donald Sterling because, among other things, he wouldn’t float bad checks.
McDonough was hired in the offseason before the 2013-14 season and his first season under new head coach Jeff Hornacek was a rousing success. The Suns improved from 25 wins to 48 and just missed the playoffs.
But that was the highlight. The Suns haven’t had a winning season since and have ground through head coaches in the interim. Hornacek was fired 49 games into the 2015-16 season and replaced by assistant Earl Watson, who was fired just three games into last season.
Jay Triano, then a Suns assistant, finished the season before McDonough hired former Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov to become the NBA’s first European native to become a head coach.
McDonough winds up being fired just days before the debuts of the historic new head coach and the franchise’s first No. 1 overall draft pick, former Arizona standout Deandre Ayton.
To be fair, McDonough nailed the drafting of franchise player Devin Booker with the 13th overall pick in 2015. Booker just signed a max extension in July and became the youngest player to ever score at least 70 points in a game when he torched the Boston Celtics in 2017.
Booker stayed on the board even as Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay and Stanley Johnson went before him.
But there was the failed three point guard experiment in 2014, when McDonough acquired Isaiah Thomas in a sign-and-trade deal from the Sacramento Kings while already having Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe on the roster.
It speaks to the dysfunction of the franchise that the Suns have none of those players now and are desperate for an NBA-caliber point guard as the season is about to open. Right now, Phoenix’s options include:
- Second-year player Shaquille Harrison, an undrafted free agent in 2017 with 23 games of NBA experience.
- Second-round pick Elie Okobo.
- Journeyman Isaiah Canaan, who played in only 20 games last season and is not exactly renowned as a facilitator with career averages of 8.4 points and 1.8 assists in 20.3 minutes per game.
- Second-round pick De’Anthony Melton, acquired from the Rockets in late August in the deal that sent Brandon Knight — the player acquired with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick — and former lottery pick Marquese Chriss packing.
The Suns have a proud history, even if they haven’t won an NBA title in their 50 seasons, but in recent years seem to be trying to match the Sacramento Kings in pure scratch-your-head dysfunction.