The Suns named Ryan McDonough their new general manager on Tuesday. McDonough, who spent 10 years with the Celtics and rose to assistant GM under president Danny Ainge, replaces former GM Lance Blanks, who was fired in April after a 25-57 season.
"Ryan distinguished himself among an impressive group of candidates for our GM position," Suns president Lon Babby said in a prepared statement. "His natural leadership and communication skills will serve the Suns well. And, his prodigious work ethic and ability to identify talent will enable us to take full advantage of the 10 draft choices, including six in the first round, that we have over the next three years. We welcome his championship pedigree to our organization."
McDonough beat out Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman and Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden, according to the Arizona Republic. In recent weeks, Suns legend and TNT commentator Charles Barkley expressed interest in the position and former Suns forward Grant Hill was loosely linked to the position in rumors.
At 33, McDonough will be one of the league's youngest GMs and his rise in Boston's front office was direct and swift: from special assistant to basketball operations, to director of amateur scouting, to director of international scouting, to director of player personnel to assistant general manager, a title he received in 2010.
SBNation.com reported in March that McDonough was highly thought of by Celtics coach Doc Rivers and the NBA's youngest GM, Orlando's Rob Hennigan.
"He’s very good at what he does," Celtics coach Doc Rivers says. "He’ll be a GM. There’s no doubt about that."
"He’s well rounded in the skills that he brings to the front office," Hennigan said. "He’s got a bright future and he’s really well respected."
The Celtics saw it all over the last 10 years -- two lottery trips, two Finals appearances, a 24-win season in 2007, a title in 2008 -- and that roller-coaster experience should serve him well in Phoenix, where a long-term rebuilding strategy needs to be undertaken despite three straight lottery appearances.
Getting the house back in order will be the first task on McDonough's list. The Suns have been a mess over the last season: Phoenix parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry in January and the transfer of power to interim coach Lindsey Hunter was less than ideal, reportedly setting off a profanity-laced exchange between Blanks and veteran center Jermaine O’Neal and leading to the departure of a number of assistant coaches. Center Marcin Gortat has voiced complaints and Luis Scola said his team "doesn't know how to play basketball."
Hunter's future is obviously another pressing question. He was allowed to interview with the Pistons, according to the Detroit Free Press, after he led the Suns to a 12-29 record following Gentry's dismissal.
From there, McDonough will begin the process of building out the Suns' talent base using a host of draft picks and with the advantage of a significant amount of cap space this summer.
McDonough's family is loaded with professional sports ties: His father was Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough; one brother, Sean, is a broadcaster for ESPN; and his other brother, Terry, is director of player personnel for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. The Boston Globe reports that those family ties helped him get his foot in the door.
“Ryan has been an important part of our basketball operations and will be missed,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said in a statement to the Globe. “I personally hired him following a conversation with his late dad Will and Red Auerbach and expected that he would pursue a career in our media department. But he requested a role as junior scout and excelled immediately, working his way to assistant GM and now a full GM job in the league. I couldn’t be happier for him and I am sure his late dad as well as Red are very proud right now.”In March, The Point Forward identified the Suns as one of the Western Conference teams with the bleakest future and one of the organizations most in need of a change in management. The Suns granted Babby a two-year contract extension in April, weeks before dumping Blanks.