Former Iowa State basketball star Jeff Hornacek) was introduced Tuesday as the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns. The 50-year-old Hornacek was the Suns’ 46th overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft.
He spent six years as a player with Phoenix before being traded to Philadelphia and then Utah – where he helped the Jazz twice reach the NBA Finals. Hornacek says he always knew he’d be a coach and he often took on that role as a player.
“When I was playing for Johnny Orr at Iowa State, he kind of let me run the show. We didn’t have a whole lot of plays, but I was kind of the leader out there,” Hornacek said. This is Hornacek’s first head-coaching coaching job. He’d been an assistant with the Utah Jazz the past three seasons.
Hornacek said he’s had some great mentors throughout his career. “From Johnny Orr, to John MacLeod, to Cotton Fitzsimmons, to Jerry Sloan…I’ve had some great coaches over my career and you learn a little bit from everyone,” Hornacek said. “At this particular time coaching, I’ve got that base and knowledge. Each guy was different in their own way and each guy got the best out of their players. Hopefully, I can take a little bit of everything and piece it all together.”
Hornacek said he’ll use his experience as a player to teach the Suns players about the importance of taking advantage or opportunities.
“When I went to Iowa State, being a walk-on, you’re not given anything. You have to earn it. You have to go out there, play hard and put the extra time in. And then here, when I was drafted by the Phoenix Suns, no one ever expected me to do anything. I didn’t get a scholarship going into college and while I did get drafted, it was still late second round and not a lot of people gave me a chance of making it,” Hornacek said.
“What I learned was, when the opportunity knocks, be ready.” Hornacek replaces Lindsey Hunter, who became the Suns’ interim coach after Alvin Gentry and the team parted ways in mid-January. The Suns were 27-55 last season, the worst record in the Western Conference and second-worst in franchise history.
Hornacek made his comments in an interview posted on the Phoenix Suns website.