PRESCOTT VALLEY -- The Phoenix Suns and Northern Arizona Suns named Tyrone Ellis the first head coach in Northern Arizona Suns history.
"We are thrilled to have Ty return with us in his new role as head coach of the Northern Arizona Suns," Suns Director of Player Personnel and Northern Arizona Suns General Manager Bubba Burrage said in a statement announcing the hire. "With Tyrone Ellis, the Suns have a highly-qualified coach who also possesses the highest of character and reputation."
Ellis joins the NAZ Suns after spending the 2015-16 season as the lead assistant with Phoenix's former NBA D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam. It marked Ellis' fourth season as an assistant coach in the D-League, previously working as the lead assistant for one season each with the Grand Rapids Drive (2014-15), Reno Bighorns (2013-14) and Tulsa 66ers (2012-13).
Already having earned a reputation as a coach for his strength in player development, Ellis joined the coaching ranks following a successful 11-year career as a player in the D-League and internationally. His final five seasons were spent playing with three different clubs from 2007-12 in Liga ACB, Spain's first-tier professional league, where he also played in his first professional season overseas in 2002-03. Ellis played one season apiece with clubs in the highest-tier leagues in Italy and Turkey from 2005-07 and played two seasons with the Frankfurt Skyliners from 2003-05, helping the team to their first title in Basketball Bundesliga, Germany's highest league.
The head coach of the NAZ Suns as they enter their inaugural season, Ellis was a player in the NBA D-League's inaugural season; he was drafted by the Huntsville Flight and averaged 5.2 points in 56 games with the team in 2001-02, the first season of the D-League and his first professional season as a player.
In addition to his professional career, Ellis had an accomplished career with the country of Georgia's national team from 2006-09. The highlight of his career came at the FIBA EuroBasket 2009 Division B tournament where he averaged 16.0 points and teamed with Zaza Pachulia to help Georgia win the tournament and advance to EuroBasket Division A. Due to his relationship with Georgia's then head coach and former Phoenix Suns assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, Ellis was an assistant on the Suns' coaching staffs at NBA Summer League in 2009 and 2010.
Originally from Dallas, Ellis played four seasons at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla., from 1997-2001. As a senior in 2000-01, he averaged 22.5 points and earned NAIA First Team All-America honors. He also helped lead the Crimson Storm to an NAIA national runner-up finish in 1998.