TEMPE, Ariz. -- When the Phoenix Suns called Ryan McDonough in 2013 and tried to lure the then-Boston Celtics assistant general manager to be their GM, he called one of his older brothers for some advice.
At the time, Terry McDonough was in his first year as an eastern regional scout for the Arizona Cardinals after spending 10 years in the Jacksonville Jaguars organization. Ryan was comfortable in his role with the Celtics, who had won the NBA championship in 2008 and returned to the Finals in 2010. But Terry, who was 47 at the time, knew an opportunity when he saw one.
And in typical Terry McDonough fashion, he didn’t sugarcoat it.
“He encouraged me and helped me understand what a special opportunity being a general manager of an NBA team would be at 33 years old, just how these opportunities don’t come along very often,” Ryan McDonough told ESPN. “His point was, ‘These opportunities don’t last forever. You’re a young guy. You’ll probably have another opportunity like this at some point.’ He really encouraged me to aggressively go after the interview and the job and fortunately I got it.
“I think the point coming from him was very well-taken.”
It now could be Terry’s time to be tabbed as general manager.
The Arizona Cardinals may soon be looking for a vice president of player personnel for the second time in as many seasons. With a handful of general manager jobs expected to begin opening up as soon as next week, McDonough, who was promoted to the Cardinals vice president of player personnel in 2014, could be on teams’ short lists.
He’s spent the last two years working as general manager Steve Keim’s right-hand man in a position where he’s been responsible for discovering some of Arizona’s small-school draft picks which include wide receiver John Brown (Pittsburg State), running back David Johnson (Northern Iowa) and defensive tackle Rodney Gunter (Delaware Sate).
And Terry’s ready to be a GM, says his brother, Ryan.
“He’s got a really good feel for personnel and evaluating players,” Ryan said. “We all have our strengths and weaknesses as evaluators and executives. He’s consistently done well finding players in the draft and building very successful teams and I think there are a lot of important parts of the job.
“There’s a lot that goes into being a general manager. That’s first and foremost the most important part is being able to bring in elite players or players who have the potential to turn into elite players. And he’s done that well at a number of different stops.”
McDonough has experienced success from the time he entered the NFL as a scouting intern with San Francisco in 1989, when they won Super Bowl XXIV. As a personnel executive with the Barcelona Dragons of the World League, McDonough helped them to the World Bowl in 1991. A year later the Dragons won the European championship. His first professional entry to the NFL came with the Cleveland Browns in 1992 as an area scout. He moved with the franchise to Baltimore in 1996. Four years later the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV.
“He has built up his resume from the top to the bottom, and he has earned it every step of the way,” said one NFL executive. “He has an unparalleled passion for his vocation. And he is now prepared for every facet of becoming an NFL general manager. It doesn’t hurt that he’s worked with some of the best of all time in Ozzie Newsome and Bill Belichick.”
While Ryan directs a team in a different league in a different sport, the pillars of the position don’t differ, he said.
“I kind of let him know the amount of time he has to scout and evaluate players will be limited in a GM role,” Ryan said. “I think that’s been the biggest adjustment for me. You have to be very disciplined with your time and very efficient with it.”
Aside from Terry’s ability to evaluate personnel, his personality suits the role of general manager, Ryan said.
He’s honest -- sometimes brutally -- and won’t hold back, especially when he believes in something or someone, and he’s not a “yes man.” It’s one reason why Keim was drawn to Terry. And it may be one reason why Terry will draw attention from teams.
“In an executive role, especially in a general manager’s role, you need to be that way with players and coaches and people on your scouting staff,” Ryan said. “You can’t really sugar coat a whole lot. When things are going well, it’s easier to be direct and deliver messages and I think it’s probably more important when things aren’t going well or when there’s some turmoil to be able to sit a player down or a coach down or somebody on your scouting staff down and tell them what you expect from them and what you need form them in order for the team and organization to be successful.”
Terry can also pull from his own athletic history -- he was the best athlete in the McDonough family, Ryan said, which included Sean, a college football and basketball announcer for ESPN and their father Will, the well-known former Boston sports writer who died in 2003.
While they’ve discussed the intricacies of being a general manager, Ryan said it’s not something Terry has obsessed over. Ryan’s impression was that Terry doesn’t need to be a general manager to validate his 26-year career. But that doesn’t mean Terry won’t be high on some team’s list.
“You’re always curious and you always have that nagging curiosity to figure out how you would do and how it would go and I think he wants that challenge,” Ryan said. “I think he’d be good at it. I think that’s something that he probably would do and hopefully will do before his career is over.”