Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is leaning toward hiring interim general manager James Jones as the franchise’s full-time GM, league sources told ESPN.
Sarver fired GM Ryan McDonough on Sunday night and issued a statement on Monday that assigned Jones and assistant GM Trevor Bukstein to share oversight of basketball operations on an interim basis. Jones had been working under the title of VP of basketball operations.
In his initial conversations around the league, Sarver has left little, if any, doubt that Jones will be leading Phoenix’s basketball operations in the future, league sources said.
Nevertheless, Sarver has been known to change his mind — often without warning — on personnel matters. The most recent evidence was his decision to fire McDonough nine days shy of the Suns’ opening night.
Last year, Sarver hired Jones to apprentice under McDonough and prepare him for a larger role in the organization.
Sarver has never shown an inclination to spend for an experienced, successful top basketball executive, and recruiting an elite candidate is only further complicated by Sarver’s poor leadership reputation.
Jones fired several of McDonough’s organizational allies and hires Monday, including assistant GM Pat Connelly, director of scouting Courtney Witte, director of international scouting Emilio Kovacic and G-League GM Louis Lehman.
McDonough had two years left on his contract, league sources said.
Jones had already started work on assembling his own scouting staff, league sources said.
Sarver hired Jones to a front office that had struggled with its relationships and communication with its players. Jones was fresh off a 14-year NBA career that included three championships and a longtime partnership with LeBron James. Jones also served as an executive with the players’ association.
Sarver has earned a long-standing reputation for aggressively involving himself in basketball decisions, but it’s become harder for coaches and front-office staff to manage in the past two years after the Suns became Sarver’s primary business interest.
Suns coaches became accustomed to regular beratings and demands of strategy and lineup changes, league sources said. Rival executives could sometimes hear Sarver yelling in the background on negotiation calls with the Suns’ front office. Agents tell stories of private conversations involving Sarver without the front office’s knowledge.
As the Suns search for a starting point guard on the trade market, they already own a solid nucleus that includes center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, guard Devin Booker and small forward Josh Jackson on the roster.