ESPN: Suns Owner Confronted Coaches Mid-Game; Goats Defecated in GM's Office

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 16:  Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns takes notes inside the lottery room during the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery at the New York Hilton in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Phoenix Suns haven't reached the postseason since the 2009-10 season and have posted just one winning campaign in that time, but the team's issues reportedly run far deeper than just the product on the court.

According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, the dysfunction in Phoenix starts with owner Robert Sarver and trickles down through the front office, with sources describing "an interventionist owner with more authority than expertise, a front office marred by instability, an undermanned scouting department, and a dated facility that isolates the decision-makers from the players and coaches."

Per that report, Sarver often confronts coaches either during games or immediately after:

"One longtime former player remembers the owner barging into the locker room following a loss to officiously instruct big men on how to set better screens. A former assistant coach was floored when Sarver confronted his boss on the way from the court to the coaches' office immediately after the buzzer to berate him on his substitution patterns. Another former coach was taken aback when Sarver marched into the head coach's office at halftime and insisted the team run a trap at an opposing point guard who had abused the Suns' defense."

In another instance, Sarver "dressed down" former player Grant Hill for his defense on Vince Carter. And in one practical joke gone particularly bad, Sarver unleashed several live goats in the office of former general manager Ryan McDonough:

"Four years after naming McDonough general manager, Sarver acquired some live goats from a Diana Taurasi event at Talking Stick Resort Arena and planted them upstairs in McDonough's office. The stunt was both a practical joke and an inspirational message—the Suns should find a GOAT of their own, one who dominates like Taurasi. The goats, unaware of their metaphorical connotation, proceeded to defecate all over McDonough's office."

Another issue has been the team's leadership under co-general managers James Jones and Trevor Bukstein. Jones prefers to work more closely with the players, serving as a liaison between them and the front office, while allowing Bukstein to handle the financial side, including contract negotiations and cap management.

But per Arnovitz's report, that has created the perception of a power vacuum in the front office, with Jones perhaps avoiding a leadership role. In turn, other franchises reportedly aren't sure who the team's point of contact should be or who is truly running the ship as a decision-maker. 

That duo replaced McDonough, who was fired eight days before the 2018-19 season began.

The result of the dysfunction behind the scenes has been a rebuild that is in its fifth season and that has somehow been dubbed less controversial than "The Process" in Philadelphia. The Sixers were castigated for bottoming out, but the result was the team drafting superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, a solid stretch-4 in Dario Saric and developing contributors like Robert Covington and TJ McConnell (Saric and Covington have since been traded to Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler deal), among other moves. 

The Sixers also accumulated the assets to make major trades in that time, most recently bringing aboard Tobias Harris. After four losing seasons stemming from that rebuild, the Sixers reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year and are legit contenders to reach the NBA Finals this season.

The Suns, meanwhile, may be a laughing stock, but they're hardly inspiring think pieces or league intervention. The team appears to have found franchise cornerstones in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and role players in TJ Warren and Mikel Bridges. Beyond that, however, Phoenix doesn't have a ton to show for six top-10 picks in the past six drafts, and at 13-51 appear to still be years away from contention.

Perhaps that could change at this year's draft lottery if the team lucks out and nabs the top overall pick and enticing Duke superstar Zion Williamson. But based on Arnovitz's report, it appears Phoenix needs to carefully analyze and address the strife occurring off the court and behind the scenes, as well.