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Jeff Hornacek spared, given ‘every opportunity’ to right Suns

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek shouts to his team during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PHOENIX — For now, Jeff Hornacek is the Phoenix Suns’ head coach.

His hold on that job, however, appears tenuous at best.

The Suns are mired in a 5-15 stretch that’s seen them lose four straight games to teams with losing records. Three of those games have come at home, including a seven-point defeat to a then-one win Philadelphia club that had lost 12 straight and 23 straight on the road.

Saturday night’s loss to the Sixers dropped the Suns (12-20) to a season-worst eight games under .500.

Monday, the Suns fired assistant coaches Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi.

Their sacrifice has led to further speculation that Hornacek may be next.

“Whatever, that’s the business,” Hornacek said following shootaround. “We’re going to try to get things changed around. We’re not quitting on anything, and we’re just going to continue to work and try to implement a couple of different things and see if we can get that going. Whatever happens after that, you can’t get concerned about that.”

Hornacek has tinkered with the starting lineup and in-game rotations for the better part of the last week, yet the results haven’t changed.

With point guard Eric Bledsoe sidelined indefinitely, the Suns are expected to start their fourth different lineup in as many games when they host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night.

The decision to part with Hornacek’s top two assistants — and promote assistant coaches Nate Bjorkgren and Earl Watson to the front of the bench — could be looked at the Suns giving Hornacek one last shot at a season turnaround.

“It leaves all of us with an opportunity,” GM Ryan McDonough said. “Obviously sitting here today after 32 games I don’t think any of us expected to be 12-20, but if you asked us before the season if you are 12-20 where would you be in relation to the playoffs, we’d say we would be way out of it — we’ll have no chance.  To sit here today and look at the standings, the middle and bottom of the Western Conference is really struggling. It’s not just us. Despite all our struggles and despite disappointing play lately, we’re two games out of the playoffs with 50 games to go which certainly isn’t insurmountable.

“Jeff has every opportunity and will continue to have every opportunity, as we all will, to work ourselves out of this hole and try to get back on the right track.”

Hornacek is 99-97 in two-plus seasons as Suns head coach.

He led the team to 48 wins, a 23-game improvement over the previous season, in his first year but has won only 51 games since.

After last season’s disappointing 39-43 finish, Hornacek made staff changes, deciding to part ways with Kenny Gattison and returning Mark West to a front office role.

At that time, Corey Gaines was promoted from player development coach to assistant coach, while Bjorkgren and Watson were added as assistants.

Hornacek, who is in the final year of a three-year contract that includes a team option for the 2016-17 season, now finds himself with a brand new assistant coaching staff than from the one he began his tenure with.

“We just are trying to figure out how we can get this particular team to get going,” he said. “We did a great job the first year with the group we had.  These last couple of years have been a little tougher.  We’re all looking for the answers.”

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