Press conferences announcing a new coach, in any sport, are not very edgy. Breaking news rarely comes from a press conference, especially the variety that introduces a coach or player to a new market. The principle rarely says anything that shouldn’t be said and remains extremely positive and optimistic. The organization is great, the players are great, the coaches are great, everything is great.
And that’s okay; they’re speaking Median, the trials and tribulations to come will be dealt with in a blow-by-blow fashion. Hope, faith, and love are spread liberally when speaking the language of public relations.
But there was a very significant moment at the press conference introducing Jeff Hornacek as the Phoenix Suns new head coach.
The presser started with Lon Babby, President of Basketball Operations, Ryan McDonough, Suns General Manager, and Jeff Hornacek sitting at an elevated table. Lon Babby made an opening statement and introduced Ryan McDonough, whom then eventually introduced Jeff Hornacek. But after introducing Ryan McDonough, Lon Babby got up and walked off the high-court stage and sat in the second row.
This was no accident. And although some will say the gesture by Lon Babby was largely symbolic, I believe it had profound meaning.
Lon Babby hired a general manager, not a director of personnel or talent evaluator. Lon Babby hired McDonough to hire and fire coaches, bring in free-agent talent, build this team through the draft, and restore the franchise to its legacy of winning. Lon Babby hired a capable man and got out of his way…literally.
He walked off the stage.
And this is how it’s supposed to be. Robert Sarver hired Lon Babby to bring life to a dead planet. Robert Sarver got out of Babby’s way and now Lon Babby needs to get out of McDonough’s way and let him do what he was hired to do: lead. Babby will still be heavily involved in the day-to-day process of building the franchise but leading the franchise now falls on McDonough’s shoulders.
This was a prerequisite for McDonough. He wasn’t going to take the Suns GM job if he wasn’t allowed to make ALL personnel decisions. Jeff Hornacek was his hire and the players the Suns pursue in free agency this summer (or not) and the players they draft over the coming years will be McDonough’s doing.
And that’s why Lon Babby walked off the stage; he deserves credit for that. Just like he’ll deserve the credit if his new GM leads the Suns to prominence or rebuke if he fails. This hire will be Lon Babby’s legacy.
Lon Babby needs to build the stage on which McDonough performs and be content with that sense of accomplishment. After all, humility is a wonderful master.