One of the first things Jeff Hornacek did after he was named the 16th head coach in Phoenix Suns history was hire a staff. He brought four fresh faces on board: Three former players, including two former teammates plus a defensive guru.
Together, those four individuals have more than 80 seasons of NBA experience both on and off the court.
“The guys that I tried to hire were not just guys who knew offense or defense. They were guys who knew basketball,” Hornacek said.
Get to know: SUNS ASSISTANT KENNY GATTISON
“He’s a guy that can work with our bigs, a guy that can get out there and pound with these guys,” Hornacek said.
Gattison returns to Phoenix, the team that originally drafted him in 1986 with the 55th overall selection. He spent three seasons with the Suns as a teammate of both Hornacek and fellow assistant Mark West, whom he also played college ball with at Old Dominion.
After a nine-year playing career with the Suns, Charlotte Hornets and Vancouver Grizzlies that saw him average 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, Gattison turned to coaching. He most recently served as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks, which followed stints with the New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets.
Gattison is an 11-year veteran of the NBA coaching ranks.
What interested you about joining the Suns?
“Jeff’s my friend. We’ve been friends for a long time. We got drafted here together. You always make a mental note of guys that if you ever had a chance to be a head coach certain guys you’d like to have on your staff. And if the opportunity came for me to be a head coach, I knew I would always want Jeff to be on my staff and vice versa if he became a head coach, I’d like to be on his staff. So it worked out that he had a great opportunity to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, and I get a great opportunity to be on his staff. You got to work your butt off as an assistant anyway, but it’s special working for a friend.”
What is your strength; where are you going to best help the team?
“Throughout the years I think the biggest strength that I’ve had as an assistant was relaying the message from the head coach to the players, because when you get the players saying the same thing that the head coach is saying, then you’re on your way to being a good basketball team. That’s what job one is right here. You got to build the right way: Through the draft, through free agency, through player development. I think that’s the plan that we have here in place. I think I can help in all three of those areas, and once you get players in (the system) make them better basketball players, not only physically, but mentally.”
Away from the basketball court, what are your other interests?
“Football and NASCAR. I was born and raised in North Carolina. I love to watch the guys turn left and I love my football.”
This is part one of a four-part series. Wednesday, we introduce Mike Longabardi.