The Phoenix Suns need a new head coach. After being eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Denver Nuggets in this year’s NBA playoffs, the Suns owner made the difficult decision in firing Monty Williams after spending four seasons in charge of the team. Williams led the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2021 and the following season led the team to the best record in the Western Conference.
However, after being eliminated in the conference semifinals in back to back seasons in which they lost crucial games in embarrassing fashion, a change was inevitable. It feels unfair that the Suns fired Monty Williams but new Suns owner Mat Ishiba felt it was necessary for a team that appears to have reached its ceiling under Monty Williams. Phoenix have multiple head coaching candidates lined up for the job, so it it’s necessary to evaluate the top three choices for who should take over as the Phoenix Suns head coach.
Sources: The Phoenix Suns have narrowed their head coaching search to five finalists: Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel, Doc Rivers, Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez and Suns assistant Kevin Young.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 24, 2023
Doc Rivers (former team: Philadelphia 76ers)
After being fired by the Philadelphia 76ers, it isn’t a surprise that the Phoenix Suns are interviewing Doc Rivers to fill in their current head coach vacancy. Rivers is a well established and respected coach in the NBA. He has been around for quite some time dating back to his early coaching years with the Orlando Magic back in 1999. Since then he has spent time in Boston in which he won a title there in 2008, spent seven seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers and was in Philadelphia for the past three seasons.
When it comes to the candidates that the Suns are pursuing, Rivers has the most experience out of all of them. His track record is successful despite the last time he won a title was 15 years ago. Rivers tends to get the best out of the teams that he coached and he is well respected across the league. However, the problems that have plagued Rivers during his coaching career was his inability to make adjustments when it mattered the most.
The reason why Philadelphia chose to let him go had to do with his inability to adapt during the Conference Semifinals in their matchup with the Boston Celtics. The 76ers were up 3-2, heading back home to Philadelphia but for some reason Philadelphia was unable to close out the Celtics in game six and the team was blown out in Boston for game seven. Rivers’ inability to adapt when it matters the most has been an issue for quite some time and it isn’t a fluke that Rivers has lost five straight game seven’s.
Rivers being hired by the Suns could be considered a “lateral move” by most individuals if the Suns were to go in that direction. He’s an established head coach but has a shaky postseason resume, considering how he has blown a 3-1 lead three times in his coaching career, and a 3-2 lead four times in his career.
Nick Nurse (Former team: Toronto Raptors)
Another coach who has championship pedigree is Nick Nurse. After being fired by the Toronto Raptors for failing to make the postseason this year, Nurse has been a hot candidate for teams that are in need of a new voice in their locker room. Nurse has won a championship with the Toronto Raptors. Granted, it was when he had current Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard on his roster. Since then, he’s made the playoffs twice but had brief stints as he lost in the conference semifinals in 2019-2020 to the Boston Celtics and lost in the first round in 2021-22 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
From a strategic standpoint, it is a clear upgrade for the Suns if they were to hire Nick Nurse to be their head coach. One of the main issues that Monty Williams struggled with is his inability to utilize his role players when it comes to their roles. He also has the ability to instill confidence in what he’s coaching and it tends to work. If the Suns were to hire Nick Nurse, it would be a bit of a gamble considering the fact that Nurse hasn’t necessarily been able to replicate the same success he had his first year in Toronto when he won a title.
Admittedly, Toronto’s team lacked a true superstar on the roster once Kawhi left which made things a bit more difficult and his tenure with the team ended on a sour note. Nurse would have two superstar caliber players at his disposal in Kevin Durant and Devin Booker if he were to be hired. Phoenix has him at the top of their list, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were to land him.
Kevin Young (current role: Assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns)
If there is one candidate that is a darkhorse to land the Suns coaching job, its current Phoenix Suns assistant coach Kevin Young. If the Suns were to choose to hire someone, why not an in-house candidate? The main, and well obvious reason for the Suns to consider hiring Young as their head coach is continuity.
Young was promoted to associate head coach in 2021, and he coached for the Suns during a stretch in which Monty Williams was in the health and safety protocols in 2021. Young received a positive endorsement from point guard Chris Paul after one of the games he coached for Phoenix, which is a good sign.
Chris Paul on the job Kevin Young did as acting head coach last night: "Great. Perfect. I just hate that we couldn't get the win for him."
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) December 29, 2021
Young also has the endorsement of Devin Booker and is considered a serious candidate to replace Monty if he were to be hired as the head coach for Phoenix.
Suns assistant coach Kevin Young is a 'serious candidate' to replace Monty Williams as head coach, per @TheSteinLine.
Young has strong backing from Devin Booker. pic.twitter.com/R88zSmNSbd
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 24, 2023
If Young were to be hired full time, it would be his first time being a full time head coach in the NBA. Yes, he has coached before but it was on an interim basis but he hasn’t coached for an entire season in the NBA. Young does have experience coaching in the NBA G-League with the Delaware 87ers (now known as the Blue Coats) but there is a vast difference between the G-League and the NBA. Young would be a good hire due to having a good rapport with the players and familiarity with the system so it could be a hiring that would benefit both parties.
Check out these NBA articles below!
A James Harden Reunion Makes No Sense For The Rockets
Lakers Enter The Offseason With Some Real Questions
TWSN Post-Lottery 2023 NBA Mock Draft 1.0