The Phoenix Suns fired general manager Ryan McDonough nine days before their season opener, the team announced Monday.
James Jones, the vice president of basketball operations, and assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein are set to assume McDonough’s duties on an interim basis. Jones will oversee basketball operations and Bukstein will handle player transactions.
“After much thought and a long evaluation of our basketball operations, I have decided to relieve Ryan McDonough of his duties as general manager of the Phoenix Suns,” said Robert Sarver, the managing partner of the Suns. “Our focus in the short term is to prepare for the upcoming NBA season and to continue pursuing opportunities to strengthen our roster. Over the course of the season, we will explore both internal and external options as we look to restructure our basketball front office leadership. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to thank Ryan for his efforts and contributions during his five-plus years with the Suns. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
The move is the latest in a current of atypical management decisions from Sarver.
Last season, the Suns fired head coach Earl Watson six days into the regular season. On Nov. 7, 2017, Sarver signed off on the team’s trade of disgruntled point guard Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The timing of the move raised eyebrows around the NBA.
McDonough was allowed to oversee an offseason overhaul that included a new head coach and first overall pick DeAndre Ayton.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that Kevin McHale, who has coaching and front office experience with Minnesota and Houston, could be a candidate to replace McDonough, as could Jones.
The Suns named McDonough, 37, as general manager on May 7, 2013. A year later, he was runner-up for NBA Executive of the Year. The Suns made the biggest turnaround in the league, moving from 25 wins to 48 that season
Before joining the Suns, McDonough was the assistant general manager of the Boston Celtics, helping team president Danny Ainge. He was responsible for draft evaluation, using both in-person scouting and advanced metrics.
During his time with the Celtics, Boston appeared in two NBA Finals.
The Suns haven’t had nearly as much fortune. Since their 48-win season in 2013-14, the Suns have won 39, 23, 24 and 21 games. Their last appearance in the postseason followed the 2009-10 season.
Still, in July 2017, the Suns signed McDonough to a contract extension through the 2019-20 season.
McDonough is the brother of ESPN sportscaster Sean McDonough and of Terry McDonough, who is the vice president of player personnel for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Suns open their 2018-19 season at home against Dallas on Oct. 17.