It’s not a new era for the Phoenix Suns front office as much as a slight transition. General manager Ryan McDonough will fully take charge of the show on Aug. 1, and after five years running the basketball operations department, Lon Babby will become a Senior Advisor.
“Lon will still be heavily involved with us,” said McDonough after the Suns draft workout on Wednesday. “It’s been a great couple years from my perspective in terms of our working relationship. He’s been heavily involved in everything that’s gone on here over the past five years. Speaking for the time Coach (Jeff Hornacek) and I have been here, he’s been a very valuable asset, a valuable resource for the past two years. He’ll still be involved, but won’t necessarily be in the office or see him at practice every day. We’re still going to lean on him for advice and counsel.”
Babby was hired by the Suns during the summer of 2010, and went on to tab Lance Blanks as his first general manager.
The Blanks and Babby combo had more negative than positive, with the team trading Goran Dragic and a first-round pick for Aaron Brooks and then later signing Michael Beasley, who did not pan out in the Valley.
Perhaps the best move the Suns made during the duo’s tenure was bringing Dragic back as a free agent in July 2011.
That summer the front office also went against popular opinion in trading the face of the franchise, Steve Nash, which ended up being a shrewd move. The branches connected to that deal deserve a story of its own.
The slight progress made with Dragic re-signing and the Nash trade was built upon when McDonough was hired to replace Blanks.
Under McDonough and Babby, the Suns were the surprise team in the league during the 2013-14 season in winning 48 games and just missing out on the playoffs in the extremely difficult Western Conference. While some might consider 2014-15 a step back, the Suns still won 39 games, have a base of solid young talent on good contracts, salary cap flexibility and a draft pick inventory better than most teams.
They never made the playoffs with Babby in the fold, but after a rough start, the franchise is now clearly in a better place.
“I’m very proud of a lot of things that we’ve done,” reflected Babby. “Lot of things I was hired to do we’ve accomplished in terms of the infrastructure, processes in place and the professionalism of the organization — not to criticize anything that came before. I played well to my strengths, but if I’m objective like I always try to be, I’m disappointed we didn’t have more success on the court and that’s ultimately the most important thing. I look back on it with mixed feelings. I’ll feel a lot better about it when this team is back in the playoffs and back competing.”
To get to that point it will now be on McDonough, plus assistant general managers Pat Connelly and Trevor Bukstein. The press release announcing the move said all three “are signed to multi-year contracts,” but McDonough wouldn’t comment on if there was any sort of extension or renegotiation.
With Babby’s role decreasing, it doesn’t sound like there will be any other major changes to the front office.
“I think we’ll probably add a guy or two on the scouting side,” said McDonough. “We haven’t finalized anything yet. We just started discussing names that will fill those roles. The upper front office structure won’t change a whole lot.”
Babby helped bring the Suns back to respectability after a brief tumultuous time, but it’s now McDonough’s responsibility to continue to build upon the good they accomplished together and take the organization to the next level.