Phoenix Suns Introduce Coach Jeff Hornacek
On pursuing coaching and his coaching influences
Coaching-wise, I’ve always felt that I’d been a coach. My dad was a coach, so I’ve been around basketball since I was five years old…
I remember going to the gyms when I was little, and hanging out with the players and see the camaraderie that, you know, these guys, high school kids would put me on their shoulder, buy me candy bars, and so I was hooked to basketball from then on.
And then I’ve had a tremendous amount of great coaches, starting with [my dad] and going through college with Johnny Orr, and then getting drafted by the Phoenix Suns and playing for John MacLeod…
And then, probably the biggest influence for me was when Cotton [Fitzsimmons] came here…and then following that, obviously, [after] Cotton, being with Jerry Sloan, and the tough-minded playing and execution.
I just felt I’ve had a bunch of great coaches where I’ve been able to take a lot of things from. You know, hopefully I can take Jerry’s toughness, Cotton’s enthusiasm and confidence-building, and blend them all together, and become a great coach like some of the great coaches that have been here in the past.
What’s the emotion of coming back to Phoenix?
It’s like coming home.
You know, they shipped me out of here for Charles [Barkley], and so, you know, we joked about it several times today, that I was a part of trading myself, ’cause we were in a weight room against Seattle in the playoffs, and I was in with Dick Van Arsdale and getting ready for a game, and Barkley was up on the TV saying he needed to get out of Philadelphia, and I said, “That’s the guy we need!”
However, I didn’t think it was going to be for me. So you know, but I always say if I was a GM or an owner, I would’ve made the same trade too.
So it was a great trade for the organization here, and so, just the feeling of coming back here, feeling like I’m back on my–we obviously have a home here in the valley, and we’re very familiar with everyone around here…It’s just a great feeling to come back home.
Was your goal always to be a NBA coach?
My goal was never to be a coach in the NBA. As I went on through the process and I was playing, you know, when you have a father as a coach, I think that’s a natural tendency to think that’s what you’re gonna do, and I always felt I would coach. But I thought it would be on a college level.
I always felt that the knowledge that I had learned over the years would be a, you know, maybe too much for high school, but the pro guys, they already know everything. So you know, why would I do that? So college, I always thought, was gonna be the route.
I think it works out perfectly nowadays, ’cause I really enjoy teaching the game, trying to inspire, doing the little things, get guys to play team basketball, and I think there’s so many college guys or pro guys now that are one-and-dones, or you know, didn’t get the teaching in college when they come to the NBA level, and they don’t know a lot of the stuff.
And that’s the one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years of being on the bench is, you can’t assume these guys know some of the stuff maybe we learned back in college, ’cause they haven’t had that experience.
And for me to be able to teach these guys those particular things, and the little hints and the proper fundamentals and techniques–we talked about it before, that I think players, when you see the players and you’re explaining these things, they may look at you and you might think they’re not paying attention.
They really do want to learn, and that’s what’s great about the young players that I’ve come across these last three years…They may look at you funny and think it goes in one ear and out the other, but deep down, they want to learn and they want to get better. They want to improve, and they want to get to a top level.
Can you talk a little about your system?
I’ve had those great coaches, and I’ve seen how [Fitzsimmons and Sloan] got the most out of players. I’ve seen their systems…My philosophy is to blend those two, and my strategy and philosophy would be more on Cotton’s side of pushing the ball. I want these guys to get up and down the court.
You know, there will be lots of [Sloan's] pick and rolls…I want our guys to be playing hard-nosed defense, make sure that they force tough shots, they create turnovers, and then we can run.
And you know, you can’t win a championship with all offense; you can’t win a championship with all defense. You gotta have that combination, and you know, I’ve learned from two of the best. So that’s what we’ll use.
On his journey from shooting coach to head coach
When I quit playing, I retired so I can spend time with my family. I played for 14 years. My knee was getting, it wasn’t the greatest. So I could’ve played a couple more years, but I felt it was time to move on and watch my kids grow up. And so, basically I did that for several years.
And then Andrei Kirilenko had asked the Jazz to see if I would come in and work with him. And so, it was a good situation for me because I can kinda set my own schedule. I went up there once for basically a day and a half every week and worked with him, and then while I was there, it was kind of a situation where, if Andrei wasn’t on the court, then another guy wanted to work with me. You know, they’d come over and we’d do things…
I did that for a couple of years, and then I started to go a little bit longer, ’cause some of them, more of the guys wanted to do things.
And I was there when Jerry decided to, Jerry Sloan decided to quit. And they asked me, say, “You know all the players, you know all the guys, you know all the offense. Would you stay on and go full time?”…At that point, the opportunity to get in full time and get with the guys and start that coaching process was something I had to do. (suns.com)