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Suns’ Lon Babby: Jeff Hornacek ‘by far the best coaching candidate’

LISTEN: Lon Babby, Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations

The Phoenix Suns tip off the 2013-14 NBA season Wednesday against the Portland Trailblazers and the team’s President of Basketball Operations, Lon Babby, has already made up his mind about one component of the made-over organization: Jeff Hornacek was a great hire.

Although the organization’s front office has taken criticism for straying from its history over the past several years — promoting Lindsey Hunter to interim head coach instead of affording Dan Majerle the opportunity last season, for example — the hire of Hornacek, who spent the first six years of his playing career with the Suns, was a reverse of direction in that regard.

Babby minced no words when talking about Hornacek on Thursday while a guest on The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta.

“We hired by far the best coaching candidate available to us, and he happened to also be beloved in the community,” he said.

“He’s a coach in every sense of the word. His father was a coach. He was born to coach.”

Hornacek was an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz for two years prior to taking the reins in Phoenix. His father, who Babby alluded to during the interview, was a long-time high school basketball coach in suburban Chicago.

“He’s a wonderful communicator,” Babby went on. “He can send tough messages in a way that players accept. He does a great job of getting their attention without screaming so that when he does raise his voice, they know he’s serious.”

Last season, many questioned the ability of head coach Alvin Gentry and then interim head coach, Hunter, to hold players accountable.

The Suns already seem happy with what Hornacek brings to the table in that area.

And player development, too, has become a priority after the Suns’ 25-57 finish last season. Predictably, Babby thinks Hornacek has that covered, too.

“And first and foremost he’s a teacher. And he’s filled his staff with teachers. And that’s what we need; we need teaching.”

Despite Hornacek’s many plusses, however, Babby knows it will take a lot for the Suns to take a complete 180-degree turn from their 2012-13 fates. But the Hornacek move, among others, brightens the future.

“He sees the big picture,” Babby said of Hornacek, who, along with his other attributes, is crucial to the Suns’ direction.