PHOENIX (AP) — Jeff Hornacek was fired Monday as coach of the Phoenix Suns, who are mired in one of the worst stretches in franchise history.
The Suns said an interim coach would be in place by Tuesday. Assistant coaches Corey Gaines, Earl Watson and Nate Bjorkgren are to be interviewed Monday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans had not been announced.
The team’s two most experienced assistants, Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi, were fired in late December following a home loss to Philadelphia, the 76ers’ first road win in 24 games.
Hornacek coached the Suns for 2 1/2 seasons. His team had lost 10 of 11 games and 19 of its last 21. At 14-35, Phoenix’s record is tied for fourth worst in the NBA and is headed for a franchise-record sixth consecutive season without making the playoffs.
Phoenix plays its next five games, and nine of its next 10, at home. The Suns host Toronto on Tuesday night.
This year’s team was expected to contend for the playoffs, but there were problems from the start when forward Markieff Morris said he wanted to be traded after the team dealt twin brother Marcus to Detroit in the offseason.
The Suns’ best player, Eric Bledsoe, tore knee cartilage in that loss to Philadelphia and is out for the season. Point guards Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price also have been sidelined with injuries in recent weeks.
That left youngsters Archie Goodwin, Devin Booker and T.J. Warren in starting roles. The team’s top free-agent acquisition, center Tyson Chandler, has battled injury problems and has not been the veteran help the team envisioned.
And the losses mounted at an alarming rate.
The firing came after Phoenix’s 91-78 loss at Dallas Sunday night, the Suns’ 14th straight defeat on the road, tied for second longest in franchise history.
General manager Ryan McDonough on Tuesday is to discuss developments and has said he expects the team to be active leading to the NBA’s Feb. 18 trade deadline.
The dismissal of Sichting and Longabardi, Hornacek’s top two assistants, leaves no obvious choice as interim coach.
Gaines is former coach of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Watson was an NBA point guard for 13 seasons and is in his first season with the Suns after a year as an assistant coach of the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League. Bjorkgren was named assistant coach/player development director of the Suns this season after one season as head coach of the Bakersfield Jam, Phoenix’s D-League affiliate.
Hornacek got off to a good start in his first head coaching job. Phoenix won 48 games in 2013-14, 23 more than the previous season, and just missed making the postseason. Hornacek was runner-up to Gregg Popovich for NBA coach of the year. But last season, the team slipped to 39-43.
Hornacek was a Jazz assistant coach before being hired by the Suns. He played 14 seasons in the NBA, averaging 14.5 points as one of the league’s best shooters.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.