New general manager: check.
New head coach: check.
New players… Yeah, we’ll have to get back to you on that.
The plan though, as laid out by managing partner Robert Sarver and president of basketball operations Lon Babby, is starting to take shape.
It began with the hire of Ryan McDonough as GM.
It continued with the naming of Jeff Hornacek as head coach.
With those two pieces in place, the next step becomes the roster: Who stays? Who goes? Who can be added to help end a streak of three consecutive non-playoff seasons?
“There’s a lot of great players on this roster,” Hornacek said during his introductory press conference Monday. “Obviously, you’re not at a championship level yet with this team that we can say, ‘We’re happy with this group.’ But for me, as a coach, you come into every training camp and it’s open. You have no preconceived notions about guys. You have ideas, but you want to give the guys every opportunity, every chance to show what they have. See if they can buy into your system; if they listen. Maybe they were not given the opportunity before. I’m open to anything.”
The Suns, despite their recent losing ways, have actually put themselves in a pretty decent position: They have salary cap space. They have draft picks. They have players with good contracts (minus Michael Beasley), thus becoming good tradable assets.
“We have lots of possibilities moving forward,” Hornacek said.
But there is no quick fix.
Hornacek knows that firsthand. The Jazz, during his three seasons as an assistant coach, reached the playoffs once, where they were swept in the first round by the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in 2012.
“That’s when you have to stay positive through that, knowing that you’re ultimately striving to get better and you have a higher goal,” he said. “There’s always that emphasis of not giving up. There’s not one night where you can just take a night off. You got to play hard. Some nights you won’t have it, but if you play hard every single night and play as a team that rebuilding process gets better and better.”
The Suns say they want sustainable success, where they don’t just make the playoffs but are serious championship contenders, as they were when they reached the Western Conference Finals three times over a six-year stretch from 2004-2010.
Your patience is required.
“The goal is to win and to get better,” Hornacek said. “Don’t accept that we lose a game. If we lose a game, okay, we might’ve had a bad night; let’s pop back the next day and really go after the next one. It’ll be a process, but one that we can all grow with.”