Head Coach Tony Bennett has helped develop many NBA players throughout his 20 years coaching college basketball such as All-Star Klay Thompson at Washington State University and Rookie of the Year Malcom Brogdon at the University of Virginia. The Phoenix Suns made a trade with the Boston Celtics a few weeks ago that landed them two other Bennett alumni in Ty Jerome and Aron Baynes. While Jerome may be the hot name coming off just winning a National Championship with Bennett, Baynes' bruising play is going to help bring physicality and veteran leadership to the Suns roster.
After being an Assistant and an Associate Head Coach at Washington State, Bennett earned the official Head Coaching title in 2006 during Baynes sophomore season. The two would go on to battle through the Pac-12 together for the following three years.
Going head-to-head against players such as UCLA’s Kevin Love, USC’s Nikola Vucevic and Stanford’s Brook and Robin Lopez was no easy task for Baynes, but in each and every matchup the center from Australia put up a tough fight and made his name known.
“Our league was amazing at Washington State,” Bennett said about the Pac-12. “What Aron did for us, he was so physical. He would get people open with the best screens I’ve seen. He would run the floor. He’d get on the glass and he’d finish.”
Baynes brought those same physical gifts from college to the NBA as one of the toughest post players in the league. Beyond the size and strength of the 260-pounder, his hustle and determination are unlike other players his size.
“He’ll die trying,” Bennett said. “He just keeps going and going. He’s relentless with his pursuit of things offensively and defensively. That’s a rare quality in players. Most of them are first effort, maybe second effort guys, but Baynes is first, second, third. That’s huge.”
Baynes may not be the type of player that stuffs the stat sheet every night, but he’ll always make the opposing team feel his presence on the court, literally and physically.
“People will look twice when he’s around. He’s either about to challenge me and be physical or he’s going to set a legal hard screen,” Bennett said. “You’re aware of his presence and he gets guys turning their head a little bit and figuring out where he is. That’s a good thing.”
The big man joins the Suns after making the playoffs in six of his seven seasons in the league, including winning an NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Bennett believes that besides just Bayne’s experience, who he is as a person will be a perfect fit as a leader inside the Suns locker room.
“His journey has been good,” Bennett said. “There’s no substitute for experience. I know Monty [Williams]. He’s serious and so is James Jones. They’re serious about a winning culture and trying to make sure that the character and the culture is at a high level. Ty and Baynes, those are high character guys.”