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Suns name Jones GM, announce Bower hire and new hierarchy

Phoenix Suns GM James Jones sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 11, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

The Phoenix Suns announced Thursday that co-interim general manager James Jones will remain with the team as the GM. Additionally, Phoenix officially named Jeff Bower as the new senior vice president of basketball operations and said it will retain co-interim GM Trevor Bukstein as assistant GM, a position he held prior to the 2018-19 season.

Bower and Bukstein will report to Jones.

“James has demonstrated a remarkable ability to manage the day-to-day efforts of our front office while developing strong relationships with our players, coaches and those across our organization and league,” said Suns managing partner Robert Sarver in a statement. “Furthermore, he is instilling the same championship culture and standard that he experienced on multiple occasions as a player.

“I have the utmost confidence in James as the leader of our basketball operations moving forward, and we are aligned in the ultimate goal of one day bringing an NBA championship to Phoenix.”

Jones, the vice president of basketball operations in 2017-18, led the Suns’ front office this season as co-interim GM with Bukstein after Sarver fired GM Ryan McDonough on Oct. 8, 2018, nine days before the 2018-19 regular season started.

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.

“Under James’ leadership and with the addition of Jeff, our front office is diverse and complimentary in their backgrounds and skillsets, yet entirely aligned in their selfless and hard-working approach,” Sarver said. “I am confident today’s announcement positions us strongly as we strive to shape the next great era of Phoenix Suns basketball.”

Because of Jones’ inexperience and with Bukstein’s resume as a cap expert, the Suns wanted a more seasoned leader with a background in the day-to-day grind of scouting and front office management.

“I’m thrilled to add an individual with Jeff’s experience and basketball acumen to our front office,” Jones said in a statement. “Jeff brings a wealth of knowledge in every facet of basketball operations, is of high character and well respected in league circles, and has a proven track record of influencing organizational success. His expertise in creating and executing a plan will be invaluable as we build our team moving forward.”

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.

“I’m extremely appreciative of Robert and James for the opportunity to join the Suns organization,” Bower said in the release. “We have a talented young team with great potential and a bright future ahead, so I’m anxious to get to work supporting James and the Phoenix Suns in every way I can.”

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