Phoenix Suns to hire Jeff Bower as senior VP of basketball operations
The Phoenix Suns are expected to hire former Hornets and Pistons executive Jeff Bower to a long-term deal as the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations in the next 24-48 hours, reports 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro.
Bower will come to the Suns with 11 years of experience as a general manager, most recently with Detroit.
Bower’s hiring would not mean the end of the road in Phoenix for interim GM James Jones. Jones was part of the interview process. So too was Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Jones and former assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein led the Suns’ front office this season as co-interim GMs after Phoenix owner Robert Sarver fired GM Ryan McDonough on Oct. 8, 2018, nine days before the 2018-19 regular season started.
“I just felt like we kind of started to plateau and I wanted to make a change to facilitate our next step,” Sarver told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station after firing McDonough. “I just felt we could be a little farther along today in terms of coming out of [a rebuild].”
“It culminated where we were heading into the summer,” Sarver added of the decision, which he made on his own. “We discussed a number of opportunities I felt like were realistic in terms of what progress would look like and, ultimately for me, the rate of progress wasn’t there where I thought it needed to be.”
Jones retired as a player before the 2017-18 season and spent his year of front office experience as president of basketball operations under McDonough.
Because of his inexperience and with Bukstein’s resume as a cap expert, the Suns wanted a more experienced leader with a background in the day-to-day grind of scouting and front office management.
Bower began his time with the Hornets in 1995, working his way up the front office in several scouting positions and eventually onto the coaching staff as an assistant.
With the then-New Orleans Hornets, Bower was credited with drafting point guard Chris Paul in the 2005 draft, while also getting the Hornets out of the lottery and into the playoffs with a core of Paul, David West, an aging Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler.
In 2009, Bower was named the Hornets’ head coach following the firing of Byron Scott. He stepped down at the conclusion of the season, returning to his GM position before parting with the Hornets in 2010.
In 2013, Bower took over as the men’s basketball head coach at Marist College.
The following year, he returned to the NBA as Detroit’s general manager, working under head coach and president of basketball ops Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons reached the playoffs in his second season with the team, with Bower signing an extension in 2016.
Bower was fired in June 2018 after Van Gundy was ousted from his position.
In Detroit, Bower was hit-and-miss with his draft selections. He and Van Gundy selected current Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie 38th overall in 2014 but traded the now starting-caliber guard two years later for reserve big man Cameron Bairstow.
The Pistons selected Arizona one-and-done product Stanley Johnson eighth overall in 2015. He has failed to develop and was traded by Van Gundy and Bower’s successors in Detroit this February.
The same can be said for Detroit’s No. 18 overall pick in 2016, Henry Ellenson, who was likewise a one-and-done prospect who was released in February.
A win for Bower is likely to come in 2017 12th overall pick Luke Kennard, the shooting guard out of Duke who came on strong after the All-Star break this year, his second NBA season.