Back in 1993, Jeff Hornacek was working out in the weight room along side Dick Van Arsdale during the Phoenix Suns’ playoff series with the Seattle Supersonics. While he was working out, Charles Barkley announced to the media that he wanted out of Philadelphia and requested a trade.
“I was a part of trading myself,” Hornacek joked at his press conference at US Airways Center on Tuesday. “I said that’s the guy we need. However, I didn’t think it was going to be for me. But I always say if I was a GM or an Owner I would have made the same trade too.”
Well after a brief stint in Phily after the Barkley deal, a successful playing career with Utah which included two finals appearances, then shortly after retiring, work as part of the Utah Jazz coaching staff on a part time and full time bases, Hornacek is now back in Phoenix as the new head coach and the 16th in franchise history.
“I appreciate the opportunity,” Hornacek mentioned. “I met with the guys last week and the direction that Ryan [McDonough] and Lon [Babby] and Robert [Sarver] want for this organization. They laid it out there for me and it was a set-up that I can compare too way back in the day when we brought some guys in named Kevin Johnson and Mark West and Tyrone Corbin and we were able to take a team that was struggling a little bit and get back to the winning ways.”
“We are thrilled to introduce Jeff Hornacek as the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “Jeff has all of the qualities we were looking for in a head coach—he is a leader, a teacher and a student of the game. Jeff’s name has been high on our list ever since my first interview with the Suns. His successes as a player and as an assistant coach, along with his deep ties to this franchise and this community, give us confidence that he will do great things as the next head coach of the Phoenix Suns.”
Though he has spent a lot of professional time away from the valley, he has always considered Phoenix his home as he was drafted by the Suns 46th overall in the second round and played with them for from 1986 to 1992. He calls this latest opportunity with the Suns a homecoming for him.
“Just the feeling of coming back here,” explained Hornacek. “We obviously have a home here in the valley and are familiar with everyone around here…It’s just a great feeling to come back home.”
“His basketball mind, his creativity, his ability to lead and to teach young players and get them better,” McDonough added when mentioned why he was the man for the job. “The fact that he has great ties to the community and the organization, that’s just a bonus. I think Lon [Babby] put it best, that’s the cherry on top of the Sundae.”
Hornacek never predicted he would be an NBA head coach even though he grew up with a father who was a basketball coach and has had basketball imbedded into his mind since he was five. But after many years of playing for some of the best, he learned coaching could be in his future.
He mentioned his coaching philosophy is a mix from a lot of the philosophies he has learned over the years. But two in particular stand out to him the most. The late Cotton Fitzsimmons who coached Hornacek in Phoenix as well as hall of fame coach Jerry Sloan who coached him in Utah.
“I’ve seen how those two coaches have gotten the most out of their players, I’ve seen their systems,” Hornacek said. “My philosophy is to blend those two. My strategy would be more on Cotton’s side of pushing the ball. I want these guys to get up and down the court.”
“You can’t win a championship with all offense, you can’t win a championship with all defense. You’ve got to have that combination,” Hornacek added. “I’ve learned from two of the best so that’s what we’ll use.”
The Suns are taking on a whole new look with the addition of Ryan McDonough as general manager and now Hornacek as head coach. Next on the agenda for them is compiling the assistant coaching staff and then gearing up for the upcoming NBA Draft and free agency period which will begin in the coming weeks.