PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns appear close to hiring Jeff Hornacek as their head coach.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday that the Suns are in contract negotiations with Hornacek, although no deal has been finalized. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no public announcement had been made.
The comments came after azcentralsports, which includes the Arizona Republic, reported Sunday that Hornacek reached agreement on a three-year contract.
If all goes as anticipated, Hornacek would be introduced at a news conference Tuesday.
Hornacek, assistant coach for the Utah Jazz, played six seasons for the Suns and was part of the trade that sent Charles Barkley to the Suns from Philadelphia. Hornacek went on to have his best pro seasons as a sharpshooting guard alongside John Stockton in the Utah backcourt.
He replaces interim coach Lindsey Hunter, who took over the team when Alvin Gentry and the club agreed to part ways in mid-January. Hunter was strongly backed by general manager Lance Blanks, who was fired at the end of the season and replaced by ex-Boston Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough. The survivor in the revamped cast is Lon Babby, who got a two-year contract extension as president of basketball operations.
The 50-year-old Hornacek faces a daunting task rebuilding a once-successful franchise that compiled the worst record in the Western Conference and second-worst in franchise history at 27-55 last season. Only the franchise’s inaugural season was worse.
The first chance to improve the roster will come when the Suns make the fifth pick in next month’s draft. They also have the 30th selection. Attempts will be made to improve through free agency but the team is saddled with contracts with some players who will be hard to move.
Hornacek also interviewed for the Charlotte job but Phoenix had an inside track because of his past ties to the organization and because he still has a home in the area.
Hornacek played 14 seasons in the NBA after being drafted late in the second by Phoenix. He eventually became part of a high-scoring backcourt with point guard Kevin Johnson, but he was sent away in the blockbuster Barkley deal. Hornacek spent less than two seasons with the 76ers before being traded to Utah, where he played alongside John Stockton for six-plus seasons, helping the team twice reach the NBA Finals.
Hornacek averaged 14.5 points per game, topped by a career-best 20.1 points in 1992, his final season with Phoenix. He retired from the game in 2000 and after working with the Jazz in various roles became a full-time assistant coach in 2011.