MONDAY, 11:05am: The Suns have officially announced the assistant coaching moves in a press release. “It is never easy to make changes to a coaching staff in the middle of a season but we feel Earl and Nate are ready to take the next steps in their careers and provide some creative ideas to our group,” said GM Ryan McDonough. “We thank Mike and Jerry for their contributions. They are both good coaches who made significant contributions to our team winning 87 games over the previous two seasons.”
11:10pm: The Suns are firing assistant coaches Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, while Stein hears that fellow assistants Nate Bjorkgren and Earl Watson will take on more prominent roles (Twitter links). Hornacek’s future is still unclear, Wojnarowski says, though Stein suggests in a second tweet that the moves indicate the team is giving Hornacek another chance.
SUNDAY, 1:39pm: Jeff Hornacek‘s job as head coach of the Suns is under immediate threat because of the team’s 12-20 record and its recent 5-15 skid, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. With belief growing within the organization that the team is no longer responding to Hornacek, the organization is thinking about making a coaching switch, according to Stein. This is the final guaranteed season on Hornacek’s original four-year contract.
The Suns were viewed as having a strong chance to make the playoffs this season after solid campaigns in each of Hornacek’s first two seasons. Phoenix was one of the league’s most improved teams in 2013/14, Hornacek’s first year. The Suns went 48-34 that season yet did not make the playoffs. They were 39-43 last season and again missed the playoffs. The Suns’ signing of Tyson Chandler was thought to be a significant addition and one that would make the Suns a much better team, as Stein points out.
Things have not worked out that way, especially lately. The Suns’ loss to the Sixers on Saturday seems to have been especially tough for the organization to swallow, Stein writes. It was Philadelphia’s first road win since last March. What’s more, as Stein adds, it was the first game on the Sixers’ bench for former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who was hired recently by new Philadelphia chairman of basketball operations and former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo to serve as associate head coach to the Sixers’ Brett Brown. The timing of the news is also interesting because Eric Bledsoe will likely miss a significant amount of time with a knee injury, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).