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 on board four fresh faces: 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 JERRY SICHTING
“If I’m looking at my staff, he could even be more helpful on the offensive side, although he played for Boston Celtics teams back in the day that were very good defensively,” Hornacek said.
Sichting brings 25 years of experience as an NBA player, coach and talent evaluator to Phoenix.
A fourth-round draft pick by the Golden State Warriors in 1979 after leading Purdue to the Big Ten Championship, Sichting played 10 years and averaged 6.9 points and 3.3 assists with Indiana, Boston, Portland, Charlotte and Milwaukee. He was a member of the Celtics 1986 championship team.
Sichting’s post-playing career began with Minnesota in 1995-96 as the team’s director of scouting and player development. He then transitioned to the bench for the next nine seasons.
His coaching resume also includes stints with the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards, where he spent last season.
What interested you about joining the Suns?
“This is historically a great franchise. What I’ve done the last three or four jobs I’ve had is kind of been rebuilding type things. In Washington, I was there last year; we kind of turned the corner mid-way through the season. I mean, if the team would have been healthy all year I think we would’ve had a very good chance to make the playoffs.
“When Jeff called me, I had never worked with him before. I had always respected him as a player. We chatted once in a while during the season if we were playing each other; in the offseason at the Chicago pre-draft (camp) or something, I talked to him a little bit. When he acted like he wanted me to come out here, I just kind of jumped at the chance.”
What is your strength; where are you going to best help the team?
“I usually work with the guards a lot, so hopefully I’ll be able to help…just work with the guards, try to make them as solid as I can. We’re going to try to play uptempo.
“There’s going to be some growing pains because we got so many new guys, so many young guys on the team. It’s going to be a challenge all year, and I think everybody knows that, at least on the staff, that young teams and teams that haven’t been together long it’s a challenge. I understand that completely. Every place I’ve been we’ve kind of gotten better. I was at Golden State before I went to Washington and they’d had a bad year. We got better. We got better last year in Washington.
“I’m kind of comfortable in this role, knowing that it’s a team that’s going to take a year or two to really formulate some cohesiveness at both ends of the floor. We’re in a rebuilding stage. We got a lot of first round picks next year and a lot of room under the salary cap. But with the guys that we have here that we want to go forward with, we’ve got to build the habits and set the foundation and have the standards that are going to carry on the next couple of years.
“We’d all like to be in a situation where you’ve got LeBron (James) and (Dwyane) Wade and (Chris) Bosh on your team, but that’s very uncommon. That’s what coaches do: You go to a situation and you try to make it better.”
Away from the basketball court, what are your other interests?
“I like all sports. I spend a lot time watching other sports on TV. I play a little bit of golf, which is great for Phoenix, except in our offseason it’s too hot to play.
My kids are all grown now. I used to be heavily involved in all their sports and doing camps and stuff with them in the offseason, but that’s kind of passed me now. Golf is probably my hobby. When I was in Minnesota, I fished a lot. There’s not too many lakes around here that I’ve seen so that probably won’t happen as much either.
This is part three of a four-part series. Friday, we introduce Mark West.