DAN BICKLEY

Suns do right by firing Frank Vogel, bringing in Mike Budenholzer

May 10, 2024, 11:54 AM

The delay was awkward. Criticisms flew fast and furious. But the crisis of confidence is finally over on Planet Orange.  

The Suns did the right thing. 

They fired Frank Vogel, who lost control of his team and the trust of his most important players. And they hired a successor who grew up in Arizona listening to Al McCoy, dreaming of the day he would coach the Phoenix Suns. 

If Mike Budenholzer somehow steers this pricey, finicky team to a championship, he will become a fairy tale, a legitimate hometown hero. 

Budenholzer is more than a local who hails from Holbrook. He comes with a great resume. He is a protégé of Gregg Popovich, a key contributor to the San Antonio dynasty.  He enjoyed terrific regular-season success as a first-time head coach in Atlanta. He won a championship in Milwaukee, where he brought pace and an abundance of 3-point shots to a stagnant offense.  

Those who know him best say he’ll deliver an ingredient currently missing inside the home locker room at Footprint Center: accountability. 

He is the best replacement available to atone for the vanquished Vogel, who apparently only inspired the Suns to stage a quiet mutiny.   

Still, a really good NBA coach guarantees nothing if the team he inherits is not coachable. And we’re coming off an appalling season where Devin Booker seemed strangely detached; where Kevin Durant stopped communicating with Vogel over the final three months, according to Kendrick Perkins; where Bradley Beal was mostly hurt or underwhelming; where injured reserve Damion Lee felt compelled to excoriate the entire team behind closed doors for their unrelenting lack of passion; and where the end of the season brought universal relief to a fan base that had grown tired of the turnovers, the cruel tease, and the joyless displays of basketball. 

There are foundational flaws in the program. Their two best players – Booker and Durant – are too alike in terms of their beta chill personalities. Meanwhile, Booker and Beal are too similar in position and skillset, in what they bring to the floor. The roster still lacks size, depth, wing defenders, physicality, a point guard and financial flexibility. 

The hope is that a fresh voice and a new leader will galvanize a veteran group, instilling them with the pride and connectivity that was so obviously missing in 2023-24, thereby securing the future of the Big Three in Phoenix. History also proves you can go broke betting on Durant’s happiness.  

In the end, this team might not be fixable, beyond repair and redemption. 

But the addition of Budenholzer is the best option and the best shot moving forward. He won a title without a traditional point guard in Milwaukee. If he can ignite our trio of offensive star power, the Suns may yet become an unstoppable force capable of beating teams into submission. At the very least, they should be far more dangerous than the team that was swept out of the postseason … as long as those stars are willing to invest emotionally and do their part. 

Really, it’s about time. 

Dan Bickley

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