Many people felt that Jeff Hornacek would make a good head coach when he decided to put an end to his playing career.
A veteran of 14 NBA seasons, the sharp-shooting guard out of Iowa State was a bit of a “coach on the floor,” always making sure he and his teammates were in the right place doing what they were supposed to be doing.
However, his road to the Phoenix Suns’ bench was not always a paved one. Upon retiring as a player in 2000, the former second-round pick took some time away from the grind that was the NBA.
He wanted to spend time with his family and, with children in school, thought it would be best to stay home with them. Which is why, Hornacek said, he turned down Danny Ainge when the Celtics general manager wanted to talk to him about his team’s vacant head coaching position back in 2004.
“I always thought I would go into coaching,” Hornacek told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “My dad was a coach and I always felt that that’s how I played.
“I was kind of caught by surprise by Danny calling me.”
Ainge asked Hornacek, who had not been retired for very long, to come to Beantown and meet with the team’s owners. The GM told the former Sun, 76er and Jazz player the job belonged to a different candidate if that person wanted it, but if not then it would be offered to him.
“I’m going ‘OK, Boston Celtics, they want me to…OK,'” he said. “So what happened was I went to bed and I woke up the next morning thinking, ‘that’s why I quit playing.’
“I quit playing to watch my kids grow up. For 14 years of travel I missed a lot of their stuff, that’s why I quit.”
So, Hornacek called Ainge back and said he didn’t want to waste anyone’s time by keeping his name in the running.
“Thank you very much, but at this point it’s bad timing,” Hornacek said.
Doc Rivers ended up getting the job, and he’s guided the Celtics to an incredible amount of success during his tenure there. Hornacek, on the other hand, spent some time away from the NBA but then returned as a special assistant to help forward Andre Kirilenko in the 2007-08 season. However, it was not until the team parted with longtime coach Jerry Sloan that Hornacek was asked to take on a full-time role.
“At that point I knew if I wanted to get back in it was a great opportunity,” Hornacek said.
And now, just a couple years later, he has another one.