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Suns moving forward in coaching search with Nurse, Rivers atop list

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07: Head coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors looks on during the first quarter of the game between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on April 07, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

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We can surmise this much, the Phoenix Suns coaching search is moving forward and a couple of big names — Nick Nurse and Doc Rivers — are near the top of the list.

Beyond that, reports of the Suns coaching search that leaned out late Tuesday were a bit murky. That’s because three reports from the three biggest news-breaking reporters around the NBA on the search were all a little different. Maybe it’s a game of telephone and by the time the information filtered through agents and sources to each man it was a little different. If you want a real conspiracy theory, maybe owner Mat Ishbia and GM James Jones pulled a Lord Tywin Lannister-level move and told various staffers/agents different things to see what showed up where in the media.

The first reports — from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania — were similar and said the Suns had reached the final phase of their coaching search with four or five names in the mix.

The only real difference between the two is the addition of Frank Vogel to the mix. The well-connected Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic had the same five-man list as Charania.

However, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report/TNT comes in later and essentially contradicts the idea that the Suns are nearing the final stages of their search.

Because Ishbia is seen around the league as running this search (and basketball operations), it is viewed as unpredictable. That said, as much as the Bucks’ Lee, the Suns’ Young, and the Kings’ Fernandez deserve a shot to be an NBA head coach, it’s hard to imagine Phoenix — with a short championship window as constructed — giving the job to a first-time head coach.

Nurse and Atkinson also are two of the final candidates for the Bucks’ head coaching job, although considering Atkinson’s history with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn it’s hard to imagine the Suns go that route. That could pressure the Suns to decide and, if Nurse is their guy, sign him before the Bucks do. (The Bucks could lean into Atkinson, who spent four years as an assistant coach to Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, allowing Milwaukee to bring in a new voice and someone considered more creative as a coach, without radically changing the system as Nurse might.)

Is Doc Rivers the coach you hire to take a team the last mile to a title?

Meanwhile, despite plenty of interest in his services, the buzz around the league is growing that former Suns’ coach Monty Williams may step off the NBA coaching carousel for a year or so.