Charles Barkley’s thoughts on Suns’ open GM job speak to larger problem

Oct 10, 2018, 7:34 PM | Updated: 7:41 pm

FILE - In this May 2, 2015, file photo, Charles Barkley joins the crowd before the start of the wor...

FILE - In this May 2, 2015, file photo, Charles Barkley joins the crowd before the start of the world welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas. After LeBron James was criticized by Barkley for questioning Cleveland’s front office, James tore into the former NBA star and opinionated TV commentator on Monday, Jan. 30, following a loss in Dallas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Charles Barkley yearns to be a general manager. To prove a point. To earn the championship ring missing from his finger.

Would he be more of a risk than hiring Lindsey Hunter or Earl Watson to coach your NBA team?

Or hiring Lance Blanks as general manager?

Or employing Lon Babby to run a professional basketball franchise, a defense attorney who rose to fame defending the man who shot Ronald Reagan?

Laugh at the idea, if you want. Barkley is still angry that the Magic didn’t hire him as GM last season, instead giving the job to “another one of those analytical idiots instead of just getting the best players.” Besides, laughter is Barkley’s greatest gift, along with a rare personality that make sports matter to everyone. If James Jones is nothing special, Barkley should definitely be considered as the next full-time GM of the Suns. He has all the credentials that Sarver prefers.

No previous experience. Out of the box. His hiring wouldn’t even crack the top-10 list of recent ownership tomfoolery.

To the contrary, Barkley would make money and heighten interest. He would bring television crews to every game and every practice. Eventually, he will hire Dan Majerle as his head coach, a move that feels like destiny. It sounds like the greatest gift a wayward owner could bestow upon his fan base.

One problem, though:

“Robert would have to say to me, ‘I’m going to stay out of it. I’m never going to bug you,’” Barkley said. “And I would have to have complete control.”

The knee-jerk firings of Watson and Ryan McDonough in successive years speak to ownership instability and more. Sarver admitted as much. He speaks with hints of growth and contrition. He is also the owner reflects the power of sports, an unwieldy meritocracy that doesn’t always bow to the whims of the wealthy.

But how much has really changed around here?

After McDonough’s firing, the irrefutable Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN published more unflattering words:

Sarver has earned a long-standing reputation for aggressively involving himself in basketball decisions, but it’s become harder for coaches and front-office staff to manage in the past two years after the Suns became Sarver’s primary business interest.

Suns coaches became accustomed to regular beratings and demands of strategy and lineup changes, league sources said. Rival executives could sometime hear Sarver yelling in the background on negotiation calls with the Suns’ front office. Agents tell stories of private conversations involving Sarver without the front office’s knowledge.

This is an important matter. Shortly after Jay Triano’s promotion, I heard McDonough confronted Sarver on his meddling ways, pleading with the owner to stay out of the front-line process. And it worked. Until it didn’t.

McDonough’s firing seems to be contradictory to Sarver’s reported growth, harsh treatment for a GM who lost a chunk of his locker-room credibility by adhering to a tanking philosophy, the dirty work that led to Deandre Ayton and Josh Jackson.

And while Sarver would never cede control of his organization to a wildly-popular critic who represents a previous generation of Suns, Barkley’s employment conditions remain the elephant in the room:

Any highly-skilled executive with real leverage will never work for the Suns without full autonomy. During Sarver’s chaotic stewardship of the Suns, we all know that will never happen.

“The rumors persist that he is too much hands-on, too much involved,” Barkley said. “I’ve heard that from Steve Kerr. I’ve heard that from Grant Hill, guys I’ve worked with at Turner Sports. You can’t hire people and then not let them do their jobs.

“But firing a general manager after a great offseason? I mean, I’m really excited to watch the Suns play. I mean, I can’t remember the (last) time I wanted to see the Suns play.”

McDonough had no real fan base in the Valley. His departure isn’t mourned. Maybe he was wrongfully fired after what Barkley called one of the best offseason performances in the NBA. He’s also responsible for Alex Len, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, the three-headed Hydra at point guard and other fatal missteps.

One question remains: Will Sarver ever employ and empower a game-changing GM or head coach, gaining power by giving power? Will he liberate his NBA franchise, even if it means his way was the wrong way?

Yeah. Right.

Good news is, the NBA is a kingdom ruled by great players. The Suns might have two of them now, providing hope for the future and redemption we all seem to crave for the current owner.

Because in the end, this isn’t his franchise.

It’s ours.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Dan Bickley


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Do Phoenix Suns fans have the patience to see Mat Ishbia’s 3-year plan through?

Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia joined Burns & Gambo to explain his three-year plan for the organization on Wednesday. Dan Bickley ponders if fans have enough patience to see the entire plan all the way through.

6 days ago

Ketel Marte #4 of the Arizona Diamondbacks fields a ball during Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Gl...

Dan Bickley

Several themes swirl around Diamondbacks at All-Star break

The Arizona Diamondbacks have several questions facing them at the All-Star break with a turning point looming.

8 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: How Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo, Ketel Marte can seize MLB All-Star Game opportunity

Arizona skipper Torey Lovullo will lead the National League team for the 2024 MLB All-Star Game while Ketel Marte starts at second base. Dan Bickley explains how the two D-backs' representatives can make the most of their time on the national stage.

8 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Diamondbacks ‘better make the playoffs or else’

The Arizona Diamondbacks are in Wild Card contention despite everything that could've derailed the team in the first half of the season. Dan Bickley is expecting big things for the team after the All-Star break, including another playoff berth.

9 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Is there something magical ahead for Diamondbacks?

Despite everything that's gone on in the first half of the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, they're still in striking distance of a Wild Card spot in the National League. Dan Bickley wonders if this team can catch lightning in a bottle after the All-Star break, and make another run to the playoffs.

9 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Who’s to blame for Diamondbacks collapsing against Dodgers?

Dan Bickley wonders who should shoulder the most blame for the Diamondbacks loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

21 days ago

Charles Barkley’s thoughts on Suns’ open GM job speak to larger problem