Well, Alvin Gentry did say 2012-13 in Phoenix would be about patience, with Steve Nash and Grant Hill gone, three new starters acquired via trade or free agency, and a lottery pick to develop in a reserve role.
Now the necessary big-picture view extends to the coach himself.
Gentry is in the final season of his contract but will not be offered an extension, Paul Coro writes in The Arizona Republic, quoting Suns president Lon Babby. Instead, Gentry, in his fourth full season, will apparently be graded after what could be the toughest of his Phoenix obstacle courses.
“We’ve talked to him about it,” said Babby, who also is entering the final year of his deal. “I think he’s at peace with it…. (I)f you’re on a three-year contract, we assess you at the end of three years, just like I’m going to be assessed. (General manager) Lance (Blanks) is going to be assessed when his contract is up (in 2014). This notion in sports that you have to always be one step ahead of your contract is something I don’t believe in, particularly now that I’m no longer an agent.”
When he was a prominent and respected agent, Babby was all for extensions for clients, of course, early and often. But it’s not just that side. Many teams also prefer to not have a coach enter a season with the uncertainty, knowing it can create an environment for players to seize on the perceived weakness inside the locker room, especially if losses mount and the atmosphere turns ugly.
There is little chance of the mood becoming toxic in Phoenix, a team with good guys at the forefront, joined with the good news that Gentry is grounded and a veteran of the coaching carousel. This will not become a distraction for him, either.
In truth, if this season is marked by challenges and the potential of losing streaks as the routine, it also offers the opportunity for Gentry to remind management of his value in the same way he showed Planet Orange something with success with a good team. The front office is going to be realistic. Babby, Blanks and owner Robert Sarver can’t be expecting another Gentry trip to the Western Conference finals. But if newcomers Goran Dragic and Luis Scola mesh with returnee Marcin Gortat to solify the starting unit, if prospects Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall make progress, if Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson turn dependable, Gentry will have delivered.
“The only thing I’m worried about now is coaching the team and having them play at the highest level they can,” Gentry told the Republic. “As far as the contract thing, it’s a dead issue until the season is over. I will never say anything else about it again. What’s the benefit of talking about it? It’s not my decision. All my energy is going into coaching.”
With double-double man Gortat and Scola as the big-man tandem and Dragic as an experienced point guard, the Suns have a chance to be decent even in what is supposed to be a season of black and blue marks. They have started 1-1, with a victory over the Pistons and a loss to the Warriors, both reasonable outcomes. Now, they play four of the next five on the road, starting tonight at Orlando, but three of the five opponents are the Magic, Bobcats and Cavaliers.