As president of basketball operations for the Phoenix Suns, Lon Babby has been right in the middle of the “culture change” the team is trying to undergo.
But what, exactly, is a culture change?
It’s an oft-thrown around term that is generally used when a new coach takes over a team, a way of saying “I’m going to be different than the last guy.” It’s supposed to make management and fans believe that positive change is on the way.
But if you’re the Phoenix Suns and have a record of 2,010-1,622 with 29 playoff appearances — including two trips to the NBA Finals — how much of a change in culture is really necessary?
Well, it’s not exactly that simple, as the idea of a culture change means different things to different people.
“First of all, the goal is here is the same as it’s always been and always will be, and that’s to be elite,” Babby told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Wednesday. “And by that, I define that to be legitimately competing for championships every year.
“One thing we haven’t done here, and the one thing that motivates us every day, is to win a championship. For all the wonderful success that we’ve had here, we haven’t had the ultimate success. So that’s what drives us, that’s the goal.”
Babby admitted the team was “obviously far away from being championship-caliber right now,” which is true. The Suns are currently 23-49 and destined to be in the NBA Draft lottery for the third time in three seasons.
Each of those seasons have come under the leadership of Babby and general manager Lance Blanks, so it’s reasonable that people question the direction the team is heading. However, it’s also worth noting the previous era the Suns were in, which is known as the “:07 Seconds or Less” era, mercifully came to an end about the time current leadership took over.
“I came into a situation here where we had just gone to the Western Conference Finals, but by the time I got here we didn’t have a Western Conference Finals team anymore,” he said.
Indeed, Amare Stoudemire had already departed for New York, and the Suns as we knew them were dead.
So, while Babby’s goal is not necessarily to change the team’s history of winning, he is up front in saying there is an effort being made to change how the team wins games.
“Although the goal remains the same, the culture can change over time,” Babby maintained. “So a winning culture with one group doesn’t always translate to a winning culture with another group, and so when you talk about changing the culture the first important point is that you’re not demeaning, necessarily, what was there before because what was there before may have worked perfectly in that context but doesn’t work now.”
Babby pointed to the Nash-led Suns as a group that got the job done playing a certain style, but said an attempt to keep doing things that way now would just not work with the current roster, which needs less on-court freedom and more discipline and accountability.
“I think that’s what we mean by a cultural change,” he said. “We’ve got to change what we need to do to to reach the same goal we’ve always aspired to reach.”
Babby added he believes while things may not exactly be moving quickly, progress is being made.