McDonough's Mad Dash
Thinking back on the whirlwind that has been the start to his career as the Suns’ new general manager, Ryan McDonough admitted to being amazed at all that had to be accomplished in just 26 days.
Following an introductory press conference, McDonough has had to spearhead the effort to land the organization’s 16th head coach, work on assembling his scouting staff, formulate a plan for pre-draft workouts and handle calls from agents regarding potential draft picks and summer league selections.
It’s no surprise then that for this past month, his life has taken place completely within the shadow of US Airways Center. The hotel he resided in was located just across Jefferson Street, and his new favorite restaurant is only one block east of the Suns’ home.
“There is no doubt that this has been the busiest month of my life, but it’s been a lot of fun, too,” McDonough said. “After three and half to four weeks in a hotel I’ve finally been able to move out as of (Sunday).It’s nice to be in a place with a washer and dryer, so that was a big step for me.”
His early living conditions may have been a blessing in disguise though, as McDonough had to start the search for a new head coach as soon as he arrived. In a moment that needed his complete attention and focus, he was able to do just that by living a life that revolved around being at the arena.
To start the process, McDonough leaned on a list of coaches he thought would be ideal to work with, which he put together while still working with the Boston Celtics as an assistant general manager.
Included on that list was the person who ended up getting the coaching job in Phoenix, Jeff Hornacek. The first time McDonough recognized just how much Hornacek was appreciated in NBA circles was in 2004, when his mentor, Celtics GM Danny Ainge, included Hornacek in the search for a new head coach despite the fact that the former player didn’t have any coaching experience at the time.
So when it came time to start pursuing candidates for the Suns’ coaching vacancy 10 years later, the GM knew where to begin.
“That’s how it started, but I did want a thorough process in terms of research and preparation,” McDonough said. “My list, inevitably, did expand until it was barely reasonable. It seemed like every time I would narrow it down, somebody else would call me with a recommendation worth checking into.”
With each candidate, of course, came multiple phone calls and research sessions. In the meantime, the Suns found out their draft fate in the lottery, the NBA Pre-Draft Combine took place in Chicago and individual draft workouts were inching closer.
To say things were moving quickly would be an understatement.
McDonough said that if his responsibilities with the Suns thus far were to be broken up in a pie chart, the majority of that circle would be dedicated to the coaching search. But for all the research completed and suggestions vetted, Hornacek made the decision a lot easier after one interview.
“I had him slotted in the middle of the group for interviews, so that way we could talk to a few guys first, then talk to Jeff and then we were supposed to have a couple guys after him,” McDonough said. “Well, Jeff came in and did so well that the middle became the end. We knew that there was interest from a couple other teams, so we had to decide to not mess around. I’m confident he would’ve landed a different job if we didn’t hire him when we did.”
Suddenly the team had its man, and the general manager admitted to stopping for a moment – however brief – to enjoy what had just taken place.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “It was a relief. I sleep a lot better now knowing that we have a terrific head coach.”
As this week began, McDonough moved on to involve himself in the team’s pre-draft workouts, which marked a return to the kind of work he appreciates the most.
With a scout’s background, the Suns’ new GM has been all over the world watching the game to focus in on a prospect. McDonough tirelessly scouts all potential draft picks from their high school careers on, but NBA rules prevent executives from directly contacting any of the players until the pre-draft evaluation period begins.
So while the players come to Phoenix for a workout and interview, McDonough is eager to glean a little information about their work habits, playing tendencies and personalities.
“For me, this is probably what I do best,” McDonough said. “What I love to do is being down here on the floor with players, or going to games to scout or watching film. That’s what I’m passionate about.”
Maybe the conclusion of the Suns’ coaching search and a return to the scouting role he loves so much will allow McDonough’s life to slow back down, or maybe this is just the kind of pace he will now be getting used to.