Jeff Hornacek’s NBA head coaching resume is relatively short by his industry’s standards, but what he’s been able to do with the Phoenix Suns in his first year on the job is nothing short of spectacular.
Predicted to be a bottom feeder in the Western Conference for a second consecutive season, the Suns, with 10 new faces on the roster, have defied all expectations en route to a 30-21 record and the No. 7 spot in the conference standings at the All-Star break.
According to the Suns’ star of the first half, point guard Goran Dragic, the team’s success is in large part due to the man at the head of the bench.
“He’s an unbelievable coach,” Dragic told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Jon Bloom on the Suns Midseason Special. “He had a lot of experience as an NBA player and understands the game. He understands how the players feel. He gives us that freedom. Even if you’re not a shooter or don’t shoot the ball well, he gives you the confidence that if you’re open you have to shoot because that’s the best shot that we’re going to get on the court.
“You can see what he’s done with all of us and all of our players. He gives us that confidence and swagger on the court.”
That confidence has led to career years for Dragic (20.3 points, 6.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game), journeyman Gerald Green (14.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game) and former first-round pick turned Indiana Pacers’ cast-off Miles Plumlee (9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game).
In turn, whether it be stiff competition on a given night, a devastating injury to Eric Bledsoe or an early first-half deficit, the Suns have been able to weather the storm through 51 games.
“The thing I like most about him is he’s always calm, even when the game is not going in the right direction for us,” said Dragic. If you look on the bench, he’s always calm. That says a lot to the players, because you believe you can win any game even if you’re down 20 points.
“Also, he’s always staying after practice. He knows he has a young team and is always staying after to working with the young players. He’s teaching them, and I believe he’s going to be an unbelievable coach.”
Without being prompted, Dragic, who has played under the likes of Alvin Gentry, Mike D’Antoni and Rick Adelman, voluntarily cast his vote for Hornacek in regards to one very important end of the year honor.
“I’ll vote for him to be Coach of the Year,” said Dragic.
Biased as he may be, it’s hard disagree with ‘The Dragon.’