The Phoenix Suns today announced a series of moves within the team’s basketball operations department. Pat Connelly has been named to the role of Assistant General Manager and Trevor Bukstein has been promoted to Assistant General Manager. Ronnie Lester has been named a scout and Emilio Kovacic has been named International Scouting Consultant. John Treloar will remain the team’s Director of Player Personnel; John Shumate and Bubba Burrage remain scouts.
Connelly joins the Suns following seven seasons in the Washington Wizards organization, most recently as the Director of Player Personnel where he was one of the team’s top scouting sources of collegiate and international talent.
Similar to Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough, Connelly has worked his way through the ranks. Before joining the Wizards, Connelly was a graduate assistant at Baylor University while earning a Master’s degree in speech communication (2004-06). That followed a stint as an assistant coach of the Bright Bears in England during the 2003-04 season when he helped lead the club to a league title.
Also like McDonough, Connelly comes from a successful sports family; his brother, Tim, is the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. A native of Baltimore, Connelly earned an undergraduate degree in business from Mount St. Mary’s in 2002.
Bukstein, 31, has spent the last three seasons as the Suns’ Director of Basketball Administration, aiding Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby with interpretation and application of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, salary cap management, and trade and contract negotiations.
Bukstein joined the Suns after six years as an athlete representation specialist at Williams and Connolly, LLP, where he assisted the sports law practice with its NBA, WNBA and MLB clients. Bukstein earned his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan.
The Suns’ scouting staff will be buoyed by the addition of Lester, a standout college player whose NBA career led to a 24-year run in the front office of the Los Angeles Lakers. A seven-time NBA Champion (one as a player, 1985; six as an executive, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010), Lester was a top talent scout for the Lakers from 1987-2001 before being named the team’s assistant general manager, a role in which he served for 10 seasons (2001-11).
A two-time All-American at the University of Iowa who finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in both points and assists, Lester was selected 10th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1980 NBA Draft before a draft-day trade sent him to the Chicago Bulls. Lester, 54, played the final two seasons of his injury-shortened career with the Lakers, winning the NBA title in 1985.
For six years, Kovacic has been the European General Manager of Synergy Sports Technology, a scouting service used by all NBA teams. After stints as a player development coach in Europe, Kovacic joined the scouting ranks using an expertise established over a 20-year playing career, including 12 years as a professional in Europe.
A member of the international basketball community for more than 30 years overall, the 45-year-old Kovacic is a native of Zadar, Croatia. As a freshman in college, Kovacic attended Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and under then-head coach and Suns Ring of Honor member Paul Westphal, won the 1988 NAIA Championship. After transferring and graduating from Biola University in 1992, Kovacic was a member of the 1992 Phoenix Suns summer league squad.