According to multiple media reports, Utah Jazz assistant and former NBA player Jeff Hornacek has agreed to terms with the Phoenix Suns to become their next head coach.
The Arizona Republic, which was first to report the news, indicated that Hornacek will get a three-year contract and will sign the deal Monday to make his hiring official.
The 50-year-old Hornacek, who spent the first six seasons of his 14-year playing career in Phoenix, will be the 16th coach in franchise history. He reportedly met with Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby and new general manager Ryan McDonough this past week, and he impressed enough that he became the frontrunner, as was reported by Yahoo! Sports on Saturday.
Babby said at a recent press conference that one of the current administration’s shortcomings was the failure to pay proper respect to the franchise’s past. Hiring Hornacek would register as a big step in reducing whatever problems that failure created.
Hornacek spent the last two seasons with the Jazz as an assistant under Tyrone Corbin and previously worked with the Utah staff in a part-time role as a shooting coach.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, speaking about Hornacek, told the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month, “He’ll have some choices, either this year or in the coming years about where he wants to be in his career as a potential head coach. He’s very capable … obviously a great basketball mind, a natural.”
The Suns also interviewed interim coach Lindsey Hunter and Houston Rockets assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, and they had requested permission to speak with Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clilfford, although it is not clear if an interview took place.
Hornacek, a fan favorite when he played in Phoenix from 1986-92 who still makes his home in the area, will have his work cut out for him with the Suns, who finished with the second-worst record in franchise history last season at 27-55. Alvin Gentry was dismissed at the midway point of the season, and Hunter went 12-27 as a fill-in.
Lance Blanks, a strong supporter of Hunter’s, was fired in the aftermath, but Babby was given a two-year contract extension and has since brought in McDonough as the new GM and now Hornacek to try to reshape a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in any of the past three seasons.
Coincidentally, Hornacek was also a finalist for the job in 2008, when the Suns — under then-general manager Steve Kerr — picked Terry Porter to replace Mike D’Antoni. Hornacek will be the team’s fourth head coach since that hiring.