PHOENIX – It’s long been believed that Iowa State would have interest in Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek if and when its basketball program had a coaching vacancy.
The feeling, though, does not appear to be mutual.
At least not at this time.
The Iowa State job is indeed open now with Fred Hoiberg moving on to the NBA.
Hornacek, however, does not sound as if he’s ready to move on from the NBA.
On Friday last week, Hornacek said coaching his alma mater “would be an honor and it would be fun”, but days earlier, according to a source, he had told those close to him he was not ready to leave the Suns for a college position.
The speculation linking Hornacek and Iowa State continued Tuesday, forcing Hornacek to once again address the rumors following the Suns’ pre-draft workout.
“It would always be fun to go back there and coach, but Ryan (McDonough) and I came here for a purpose,” he said. “We think we’ve got a good, young crew that we can build with. Obviously, we’ll work on getting some more veteran guys in here to help them. But, we got a job to do here and that’s our plan.”
As of late Wednesday, Iowa State had not sought permission from the Suns to speak to Hornacek, who is two years into a three-year contract with the hope that a fourth year club option is exercised soon or an extension is reach prior to the start of training camp.
In his first year leading the team he played six of his 14 NBA seasons with, Hornacek coached the Suns to a 48-34 record, ultimately falling one-game short of the playoffs yet showing a 23-game improvement from the previous season, the largest turnaround of any team in 2013-14.
A 39-win followed in year two, one dominated by injuries and roster imbalance that caused five in-season trades and 23 players used, a total matched only in Suns history by the 1996-97 season.
While at Iowa State, Hornacek was an all-Big Eight Conference performer.
As a point guard, he guided the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 of the 1986 NCAA Tournament, first with a win over Miami in which he hit the game-winning shot in overtime to give ISU its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1944; and then two days later upsetting second-seed Michigan.
Hornacek, whose No. 14 was retired in 1991, left Iowa State with a conference record 665 career assists, still a school record, and 1,313 career points.