Two weeks after firing Lance Blanks, Suns president Lon Babby on Tuesday hired Ryan McDonough as the team’s new general manager.
The hiring puts interim coach Lindsey Hunter’s status in immediate jeopardy. Hunter was working in player development when he was installed by Blanks after Alvin Gentry was fired. Assistants Dan Majerle and Elston Turner, believing they were bypassed, resigned their positions.
Hunter has not been retained or relieved. However, McDonough is almost certain to handpick his own coach as part of the rebuilding process. The Suns were 25-57 this season, the worst record in the Western Conference and second-worst in franchise history.
McDonough, 33, is another young, new-age NBA executive cut from the same cloth as Daryl Morey, Sam Presti and Rob Hennigan. He has spent virtually his entire career in various roles of player evaluation and relies strongly on advanced metrics and stat analysis.
McDonough had been with the Boston Celtics since 2003, starting as a special assistant to basketball operations and ascending to director of amateur scouting, director of international scouting, director or player personnel and assistant general manager, a position he held the last three seasons.
As assistant GM, McDonough’s primary responsibility was the evaluation of draft-eligible players from college and overseas. That experience should serve well for both McDonough and the Suns, who have 10 draft picks over the next three years, including six first-round picks.
If form holds in the lottery, the Suns would have the fourth pick and 30th pick in this year’s draft. In addition to their own picks, they also have the first-round picks of Minnesota in 2014 and the LA Lakers in 2015.
Phoenix’s notable free agents this summer are swingman Wesley Johnson and veteran forward Jermaine O’Neal. The Suns don’t figure to have significant room under the salary cap until the summer of 2015.
While their highest-paid player is Goran Dragic at the relative bargain price of $7.5 million, Dragic and Jared Dudley are signed through 2016 (with player options), Channing Frye, Luis Scola and Michael Beasley are signed through 2015 and Kendall Marshall and Marcus and Markieff Morris are on their rookie contracts.
While Majerle would be a possible coaching candidate given his popularity in the Valley, more experienced options such as Stan Van Gundy and Nate McMillan are available.
McDonough comes from a family that has been around sports for generations. His late father, Will, was a longtime writer for the Boston Globe. Brother Sean is a broadcaster for ESPN and brother Terry is an NFL executive.