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Suns GM: Triano helping himself; McDonough makes up with Dragic

Phoenix Suns head coach Jay Triano and guard Devin Booker smile during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns GM

After the Phoenix Suns fired coach Earl Watson three games into the 2017-18 season, general manager Ryan McDonough made two things clear.

Among them:

1. He would install Jay Triano as interim coach until the end of the year.

2. He regretted the previous decision to remove the interim tag from Watson and, without interviewing other candidates, hiring him as head coach before the 2016-17 season.

To assume those two facts could make McDonough wary about retaining an interim coach for the second time in a row might be, well, presumptuous.

Asked on the Burns & Gambo show Wednesday about whether he will conduct a coaching search after the season, McDonough said it’s “to-be-determined.”

“We like Jay. We think he’s doing a phenomenal job. He’s put in systems in place on both ends of the floor that have allowed our group to be successful and has really changed the way we play in a short period of time, which is not easy to do when you’re not the head coach of the team for training camp and the preseason,” the general manager said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Triano has ushered accountability and improvement from his young players Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and even Devin Booker. With the Suns’ best player, Booker, healthy and playing, Phoenix has gone 13-16 this year after starting off 0-3 with Watson as coach.

Make no mistake: Triano’s resume of coaching in the NBA since 2002 and his role leading the Canadian National Team is far different than Watson’s single season of coaching experience in the D League before joining the Suns. Watson was only an NBA assistant for half a season before he replaced head coach Jeff Hornacek as interim.

Watson went 9-24 to finish out 2015-16 before taking the head coaching job as Phoenix won 24 games the next year.

After the Suns lost two of their first three games this season by more than 40 points, Watson was fired, putting them back on the market for a head coach.

Could Triano keep developing the Suns through the end of the year and be handed the job outright?

“I think toward the end of the season, we’ll have worked with Coach Triano for almost the whole year,” McDonough said of the coaching search ahead. “How we’ll feel, how I’ll feel in early to mid-April, I don’t know. A lot could happen between now and then. He certainly was a candidate coming into this. He’s helped himself.”

BURYING THE HATCHET

Nearly three years after Goran Dragic surprised the Phoenix Suns by asking out of the Valley, the 2015 Most Improved Player has made up with the man who traded him.

Dragic revealed on Zach Lowe’s The Lowe Post podcast that he spoke with his former boss in November when his Miami Heat visited Phoenix.

“First of all, it was never my intention to leave Phoenix like I did. It happens,” Dragic said. “I’m always going to be grateful for this organization. They are the first one that gave me an opportunity in the NBA. Ryan is right. In the end of the day it is only business. This year when we play over there, I really had a good, long conversation with Ryan and I was pleased that this is finally — you know, it’s finally over. You know what I mean? I wished them the best. I think Ryan is a good GM. I was happy we had a good conversation.”

McDonough also said he was happy to move on.

“I think what is important to realize is 95 percent of the time or 99 percent of the time he was here, we did have a good relationship,” the Suns general manager said. “The end wasn’t good and it got too public and he admits he regrets some of that, and so do I.”

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