The Phoenix Suns have inked general manager James Jones to a multiyear contract extension according to reports. Since Jones’ first season as interim GM in 2018-2019, the Suns have had a remarkable turnaround. They won 19 games in that season, were undefeated in the “bubble” restart the next season, and last year advanced to the NBA Finals.
“I’m just fortunate and I’m extremely grateful to be a part of it,” Jones said of the contract extension to The Undefeated. “It’s more than I could have ever dreamed of to be a part of a team like this, some of the best professionals across sports. And to have the success that we’re having, it’s so much fun. When you step into this job, you never really know what it’ll be like, you hear stories about what it looks like, what the profession looks like, and the arc of a career in the front office or in an organization.”
During his tenure Jones hired head coach Monty Williams, pulled off the trade to acquire Chris Paul, drafted Cam Johnson, Jalen Smith and signed Jae Crowder, Cam Payne, JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo.
Jones has also kept the Suns ship steady, along with Williams, as they deal with the league investigation into the conduct of majority owner Robert Sarver. A scathing report based on interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees described a toxic and hostile workplace of racism and sexism during Sarver’s 17-year tenure in Phoenix.
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That alone is worthy of an extension, but the situation didn’t give Jones pause.
Jones is leading the charge of 11 Black general managers in the NBA, and along with Williams they are one of seven Black GM/head coach duos.
Including the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Koby Altman and J.B. Bickerstaff, the Houston Rockets’ Rafael Stone and Stephen Silas, the Detroit Pistons’ Troy Weaver and Dwane Casey, the Dallas Mavericks’ Nico Harrison and Jason Kidd, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Trajan Langdon and Willie Green, and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Elton Brand and Doc Rivers.
There are 30 NBA franchises and to have 11 Black general managers is a step in the right direction. The NBA is 75 percent Black so the front office and head coach numbers should be closer to 50-60 percent. But Jones sees progress coming, albeit slowly.
“It’s better. It has improved, and it will continue to improve and evolve, and there’ll be more diversity in that space,” Jones said. “And just to be a part of that group, is special. There’s only so many of those spots, only so many of those positions in the league, and to be able to fill those spots, and to be able to be a part of it, it’s special. I don’t take it for granted. It’s really unreal when I think about it. It’s the type of thing, you don’t think about it until you have to think about it.”
There is truth to Jones’ statement about scarcity. There are only 30 NBA teams, so there are only 30 GM, head coach, president, etc., positions available. These positions are highly coveted and competitive. That we’re at 11 is a small victory in itself. But, as with all things, the work continues.
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