Will the Suns Give Their Next Head Coach a Fighting Chance?

The Suns have once again decided to move in a new direction with their head coaching position.

Phoenix relieved Igor Kokoskov of his duties after one season with the team. Kokoskov went 19-63 with the Suns in what was going to be a rebuilding year with the priority being the development of Phoenix’s young players.

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Now, the franchise will have to look for its seventh head coach in the last eight seasons. Unsurprisingly, the Suns have not made the playoffs during that time period.

As for Kokoskov, he had his work cut out for him as he was overseeing a young roster unlikely to compete in a loaded Western Conference. That’s why his focus was on developing his team’s young core.

Here’s how some of those young players, including Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker, fared under Kokoskov.

The Suns’ Stats (Per Game Average) Points FG % Rebounds Assists Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
Deandre Ayton 16.3 58.5 10.3 1.8 104.5 112.4
Devin Booker 26.6 46.7 4.1 6.8 107.5 114.9
Mikal Bridges 8.3 43.0 3.2 2.1 104.6 111.5
Kelly Oubre (40 games with PHX, acquired in trade) 16.9 45.3 4.9 1.6 107.7 112.9
T.J. Warren 18.0 48.6 4.0 1.5 106.0 113.8

 

The Suns clearly struggled defensively, but Booker, Warren and Ayton took significant steps on offense under Kokoskov.

In fact, Ayton is the only player in league history to put up at least 16 points and 10 rebounds on 58 percent shooting during his rookie season. That alone is a good enough endorsement to keep Kokoskov around. Which stings even more considering that Phoenix’s coaching staff felt they would be coming back next season, according to Stadium NBA Insider Shams Charania.

But James Jones, Phoenix’s new GM, decided that he needed to move on from Kokoskov after just one year with the 47-year-old on the sideline.

According to Charania, the Suns will look to interview Monty Williams and David Vanterpool. Williams is an assistant coach with the 76ers, but has head coaching experience in New Orleans, while Vanterpool has been an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers during their rise as a consistent playoff team over the last half-decade. Sources tell Charania that Phoenix’s pool of candidates could expand to as many as six names.

Williams and Vanterpool also have executive experience. Williams was VP of Basketball Operations in San Antonio before making the move back to coaching in Philadelphia. Vanterpool spent time as the Director of Player Personnel for the Thunder before his time in Portland.

With their potential candidates targeted, the question now becomes whether the Phoenix job is even desirable.

That’s because the organization has failed to commit to a direction for the team over the past decade. Yes, coaching turnover is expected in the NBA, but letting go of coaches every year isn’t normal.

On top of that, the franchise recently had a public standoff with the city over a new arena. Are frustrated Suns fans willing to be patient with a team that is facing a 10-year playoff drought next season?

At the end of the day, Phoenix offers:

  • an opportunity to be a head coach in the best basketball league in the world,
  • the chance to land a big-time prospect in the 2019 NBA Draft, and
  • a roster that features talented youngsters like Ayton and Booker.

 

That’s an enticing package for any coach interviewing for the job.

But will the organization give them enough time to see their vision through? Recent history says no.

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