PHOENIX — The Suns turned to a former player after one of the worst seasons in franchise history, officially hiring Jeff Hornacek as their new coach Tuesday.
Hornacek spent the first six of his 14 seasons as an NBA player with Phoenix. Multiple reports over the weekend had Hornacek getting the job, and the Suns made it official with Tuesday’s announcement that he would be the club’s 16th head coach.
The 50-year-old Hornacek had been an assistant with the Utah Jazz since 2011. This is his first head coaching job.
He takes over a team that went 27-55 last season, the worst record in the Western Conference and second-worst in franchise history.
Hornacek replaces Lindsey Hunter, who became interim coach after Alvin Gentry and the team parted ways in mid-January.
Hunter was strongly backed by general manager Lance Blanks, who was fired at the end of the season and replaced by ex-Boston Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough. The survivor in the revamped cast is Lon Babby, who got a two-year contract extension as president of basketball operations.
Hornacek also interviewed for the Charlotte job, but Phoenix had an inside track because of his past ties to the organization and because he and his wife live there.
In the news release announcing the hiring, McDonough said Hornacek “has all the qualities we were looking for in a head coach — he is a leader, a teacher, and a student of the game.”
Hornacek was drafted in the second round by Phoenix in 1986, the 46th selection overall. He eventually became part of a high-scoring backcourt with point guard Kevin Johnson, but he was sent to Philadelphia in the trade that brought Charles Barkley to Phoenix.
Hornacek spent less than two years with the 76ers before being traded to Utah, where he played alongside John Stockton for six-plus seasons, helping the team twice reach the NBA Finals.
He averaged 14.5 points, topped by a career-best 20.1 points in 1992, his final season with Phoenix. He retired in 2000, and after working with the Jazz in various roles, he became a full-time assistant coach in 2011.
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