After owner Robert Sarver and general manager Ryan McDonough met with starting players and coaching staff on Sunday, management has fired two assistant coaches close to head coach Jeff Hornacek, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Suns fired top assistant, Mike Longabardi, along with Jerry Sichting on Sunday night, and Hornacek’s future is teetering on the brink, league sources said.
Hornacek was adamantly against the dismissal of his staff, but appears that he’ll decide to continue on the job, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Longabardi was the defensive coordinator on Doc Rivers’ Boston staff when the Celtics had the NBA’s top-ranked defense in 2011-12. He started his college coaching career under Charlotte’s Steve Clifford and his NBA career under Houston’s Jeff Van Gundy.
In the wake of a humiliating loss to the 2-30 Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night, the latest low in a stretch that has seen the Suns lose 10 of 15 games, Sarver and McDonough held individual meetings with players on Sunday, trying to gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the team’s spiral, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Suns are 12-20, and management and players are wondering whether Hornacek has lost his team.
Ownership and management have been reluctant to fire Hornacek, affording him every chance to work the team out of its struggles, league sources said. Nevertheless, the firing of the assistant coaches was a shot close to Hornacek. Another assistant coach, Earl Watson, will move into a more prominent role on the Suns staff. Nate Bjorkman also was promoted with Watson.
Watson could become the most likely candidate to be interim head coach should Hornacek be replaced.
The Suns lost guard Eric Bledsoe to a meniscus injury on Saturday night, and league sources say that he is likely to miss six weeks following a surgical procedure on Tuesday. Disgruntled forward Markieff Morris will serve one more game on a suspension for throwing a towel at Hornacek on the team’s bench last week.
Hornacek, a popular former Suns player, has had a strong relationship with Sarver and McDonough, but ownership’s patience with the franchise’s loss of momentum could ultimately prompt a change. Hornacek won 48 games as a rookie coach in 2013-14, before the team took a step back last season.
Hornacek has a team option for the 2016-17 season in his contract, which the organization has yet to exercise.
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