Blanks Introduced as New Suns GM
Posted: August 25, 2010
When Lon Babby accepted his job as Suns President of Basketball Operations, he said that his first order of business would be to hire a top-notch talent evaluator for the position of Suns General Manager. Babby believes that man is Lance Blanks.
Babby, who described Blanks as a “basketball genius,” believed that the next Suns GM needed to possess three vital components. He desired a highly perceptive talent evaluator, someone with the highest personal and professional qualities and someone who was associated with winning.
Babby introduced Blanks during a press conference at the Al McCoy Media Center at US Airways Center on Wednesday.
“We took our time, did our due diligence and settled on the perfect choice in Lance Blanks,” Babby said. “He met all of our criteria. He aced them across the board.”
Playing his collegiate ball at the University of Texas, Blanks and teammates Travis Mays and Joey Wright were known as the "BMW Scoring Machine" during the 1989-90 basketball season, leading their squad to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. After graduating, Blanks was selected by the world champion Pistons with the No. 26 pick in the first round of the 1990 NBA Draft.
Blanks played three seasons in the NBA, two with the Pistons and one with the Timberwolves. From there, Blanks spent one year in the CBA and three seasons in Europe, where he led his teams in Hungary and Cyprus to league championships.
After concluding his playing career, Blanks spent two years pursuing some entrepreneurial opportunities while keeping his eyes peeled for an opening with an NBA team. After working his connections with current Spurs GM R.C. Buford and Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, Lance broke back into the NBA with San Antonio in a position that he described as a created “made-up half-internship, half-scouting role.”
He was promoted to director of scouting in 2002, while simultaneously serving as the Spurs TV color analyst during the 2003-04 and ‘04-05 seasons. While in San Antonio, Blanks was a part of a front office that captured two championships, drafted Tony Parker and Luis Scola and acquired Bruce Bowen from overseas.
Blanks left the Spurs to become the assistant general manager of the Cavs in 2005 under former Spur Danny Ferry. With the Cavs, he was a member of a basketball operations crew that was instrumental in winning the Eastern Conference, making the Finals, drafting JJ Hickson and bringing Anthony Parker to Cleveland.
“The staffs in both places did a great job and had some wonderful processes in place,” Blanks said. “I was involved with groups that knew how to evaluate talent. It was a always a collaborative effort in who we brought in, but there were a number of acquisitions that I’ve had a pretty strong opinion on, in terms of the group picking guys up.”
When Ferry resigned as Cavs GM this summer, Blanks moved up the basketball operations ladder one rung. But when the GM job surfaced in Phoenix, Blanks decided to explore an even larger role.
“I guess the only thing that this organization has not accomplished is that of a championship,” Blanks said. “It’s accomplished just about everything else that you could accomplish in the NBA, so hopefully I can be a part of taking it to higher ground.”
As for how he’s going to accomplish that goal, Blanks remains unsure, but states that with the background here, part of his job will be to “stay out of the way.” In fact, after making the Western Conference Finals last season, Blanks believes that his new club is already in the upper echelon of the league.
Blanks takes over for former Suns President of Basketball of Operations and GM Steve Kerr, who parted ways with the organization at the end of this past season. The two previously worked together when Kerr played in San Antonio from 1998-2001 and in 2002-03.
When it comes to personnel decisions, Blanks believes that he’ll have “gross “ say in what happens, but is aware that ultimately, the final decision will almost always come down to the owner. But in coming to those decisions, both Blanks and Babby believe that they’ll play off of each others’ strengths and weaknesses.
“The reason Lance is here is because he meshes perfectly with my weaknesses,” Babby said. “Whoever has the final say, I think it’s fair to say that he’ll have the most influential voice in personnel matters.”
Blanks credits Popovich, Buford, Ferry and former teammate Joe Dumars with shaping his approach to being a GM and basketball in general. Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who has known Blanks since he played at Texas, believes that his talent-evaluation skills will be a “real positive” for the franchise.
“I have a great relationship with Lance,” Gentry said. “I’ve known him for 21 years, and I’ll think he’ll do a great job.”
It’s no secret that the GM and the head coach continually meet throughout the season and exchange ideas about where the team is going and how it can improve. The familiarity between Gentry and
Blanks should provide for a productive flow of ideas between the two.
Gentry said that he’s always open to ideas that will help the team win more games. As for this upcoming season, the vast majority of personnel decisions have already occurred, leaving Blanks with a team he that's ready-made.
“As Lon said, ‘If things work out, thank God he and I are here and if it doesn’t, I don’t know what these guys were thinking about?’” Blanks joked.
Based on both of their resumes, when it’s all said and done, odds are that Babby will be saying the former instead of the latter about the pair.
Any questions or comments for Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.