Suns fire assistant coaches Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi, promote Nate Bjorkgren and Earl Watson

The Phoenix Suns today announced changes to their coaching staff, promoting assistant coaches Nate Bjorkgren and Earl Watson to the front of the bench on Head Coach Jeff Hornacek’s staff. The Suns also announced Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi have been relieved of their duties as assistant coaches.

“It is never easy to make changes to a coaching staff in the middle of a season but we feel Earl and Nate are ready to take the next steps in their careers and provide some creative ideas to our group,” said General Manager Ryan McDonough. “We thank Mike and Jerry for their contributions. They are both good coaches who made significant contributions to our team winning 87 games over the previous two seasons.”

Bjorkgren (pronounced BEE-ork-Gren) is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Suns and second season overall with the organization as in 2014-15 he served as head coach of the Bakersfield Jam, the team’s NBA D-League affiliate. An experienced head coach in the D-League, Bjorkgren amassed a 126-74 (.630) record in four seasons, going 34-16 in his one season with the Jam, leading the Iowa Energy to the Central Division title in 2013-14 and the Santa Cruz Warriors to the 2012-13 D-League Finals. Before becoming the head coach of the Dakota Wizards in 2011-12, Bjorkgren spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Energy from 2007-11.

Watson is in his first season with the Suns after working last season as an assistant coach for the Austin Spurs of the D-League. Watson became a coach following a 13-year NBA career as a player in which he appeared in 878 career games from 2001-2014. Watson averaged 6.4 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steals for his career, posting highs of 10.7 points and 6.8 assists in 78 games (73 starts) with Seattle in 2007-08. Watson played for three NBA Coach of the Year Award winners throughout his 13-year career (Hubie Brown, George Karl, Scott Brooks), as well as Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan. During Watson’s three seasons with the Jazz from 2010-13, Hornacek served first as shooting coach then as an assistant coach for the team.

Sichting and Longabardi both joined the Suns as assistant coaches prior to the 2013-14 season.

Matt Barnes suspended over incident with Derek Fisher

Matt Barnes suspended over incident with Derek Fisher

Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes has been suspended for two games without pay for engaging in a physical altercation with and threatening New York Knicks’ Head Coach Derek Fisher, the NBA announced today. The altercation occurred on October 3, 2015 in Redondo Beach, CA. The NBA conducted its own investigation into the matter.

Barnes’ suspension will begin when the Grizzlies face the Miami Heat on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at FedExForum.

On October 7, 2015 the New York Post reported: “Knicks coach Derek Fisher was attacked in Los Angeles by NBA bad boy Matt Barnes, who drove 95 miles to “beat the s—t out of him” when he found out Fisher was romancing his estranged wife, sources told The Post on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7 Barnes, who now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, made a fast break from his team’s California training camp Saturday when he was tipped off that Fisher was making time with sultry “Basketball Wives LA” star Gloria Govan in the home Barnes once shared with her.”