Posts Tagged ‘Alvin Gentry’

As Suns tab Hunter as interim coach, Gentry seeks a hobby


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The Phoenix Suns either are fast-tracking their hiring process in replacement of former head coach Alvin Gentry or they’re punting.

As noted here at Hang Time Friday, Lindsey Hunter – the Suns’ player development coordinator and longtime NBA guard with the Detroit Pistons and four other teams – was named interim head coach Sunday morning, with the requisite news conference scheduled for noon Phoenix time.

What isn’t clear yet is whether Hunter got the job over three Suns assistant coaches because president of basketball ops Lon Babby and owner Robert Sarver are veering hard toward player development, with Hunter eventually firmed up and afforded significant time as part of the club’s rebuilding. Or whether Hunter truly is an interim, as in a placeholder for a more permanent hire to be made in the calm of the offseason.

There is a third possibility, of course: Hunter might be a brilliant head coach-in-waiting whose potential was too enticing for Babby and Sarver to pass up. That too could explain why more experienced coaches Elston Turner, Igor Kokoskov and Dan Majerle were leapfrogged in Sunday’s move. (Noel Gillespie, another Suns assistant, apparently was not a candidate for this opening.)

Turner was Gentry’s lead assistant and a veteran of 14 seasons working NBA sidelines. Kokoskov has been an assistant for 13 seasons, bringing Euro cred as the first full-time non-American to serve in the capacity with the L.A. Clippers and Detroit.

Majerle is a popular former Suns player working from the bench since 2008 who handles head coaching duties of Phoenix’s summer league entries.

Hunter worded for the Suns in scouting before being hired in August to the player-development post, a job he held briefly with Chicago. Drafted out of Jackson State in 1993, the No. 10 overall pick played 17 season in the NBA, mostly with Detroit. He averaged 8.5 points and 2.7 assists in 937 games, earning championship rings in 2002 with the Lakers and in 2004 in a return stint with the Pistons.

Meanwhile, Gentry – a whole two days into idleness – took to Twitter in an attempt to fill his time. (He was due for some anyway with a five-day gap between Suns games – they don’t play again until Wednesday in Sacramento – but now that will be Hunter’s minicamp.)

So fire away with suggestions on two fronts. One, as long as the Suns are using that “interim” tag, what should they do regarding a permanent head coach? And two, how might Gentry spend his free time beside blobbing on the coach to watch two football games.

Gentry Out In Phoenix





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Phoenix Suns became the fourth team to undergo a coaching change this season, parting ways with head coach Alvin Gentry on Friday.

Alvin Gentry, by Noah Graham/NBAE

Alvin Gentry, by Noah Graham/NBAE

Gentry took over for Terry Porter in the middle of the 2008-09 season, took the Suns to the Western Conference finals in 2010, and compiled a 158-144 record with the Suns. But in the wake of Steve Nash‘s departure, the Suns put together a flawed roster. After Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, they’ve lost 13 of their last 15 games and stand in last place in the West at 13-28.

Despite some offensive talent, the Suns rank 23rd in offensive efficiency and have the league’s worst offense (95.8 points per 100 possessions) since Christmas. Defensively, they rank 26th, though they were decent on that end of the floor whenever Michael Beasley was on the bench.

Paul Coro from the Arizona Republic has the report from Phoenix

The Suns have parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry after the team posted its worst record for the first half of a season in 25 years.

An interim coach was not immediately known, although lead assistant coach Elston Turner would be the next in line and has been a finalist for other league head coaching jobs.

The Suns lost at home Thursday night to Milwaukee for the first time in 26 years to fall to 13-28, the franchise’s worst midpoint record since the 1987-88 team went 13-28 coming out of the drug scandal.

Gentry, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver and President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby had a late-night meeting but Gentry was not let go at that time. A decision was made Friday morning.

Gentry follows Lakers coach Mike Brown, Nets coach Avery Johnson and Bucks coach Scott Skiles out the door this season. Reports have player development coach Lindsey Hunter as the lead candidate to step in for Gentry.

Blogtable: It’s Tough Being A Coach




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 11: Kevin Garnett is … | Encouraging signs for Lakers? | Next coach to go


Mike Brown, Avery Johnson, now Scott Skiles: Next? Please explain.

Steve Aschburner: Maybe we should note the specifics of those situations, with Mike Brown‘s firing a panic move, Johnson’s pink slip driven by unrealistic expectations of his bosses and Skiles’ departure a mutal thing set up by his lame-duck contract status. Then again, maybe those are distinctions without differences. Coaches topple every season and someone surely is next. Hate bandying about a fellow’s job security but I wonder how patient the Maloofs will be with Keith Smart in Sacramento (with DeMarcus Cousins as an X-factor in this dynamic). I also wonder how much improvement John Wall really will bring in Washington – without a big bump, Randy Wittman could be getting cross-eyed looks too. Guess I’m going with one of the former Hoosiers not named Mike Woodson.

Fran Blinebury: The obvious choice would seem to be Randy Wittman as the Wizards wallow at the bottom of the standings, but it’s happening without John Wall.  So here’s a wild thought.  If the Lakers continue going completely over the cliff, how long can they keep selling Mike D’Antoni as the answer?

Jeff Caplan: I’m not going with probably the most obvious name, Washington’s Randy Wittman, because of all the injuries. I think he’s used like 15 different starting point guards already. And, hey, he’s worked wins over Miami and Oklahoma City. Let him get John Wall in there and see if they can catch a spark. In the East, of the teams in the playoff mix, Milwaukee and Brooklyn have already done the deed. The teams out of the playoff mix have relatively new coaches. And then there’s Byron Scott in Cleveland, who in my estimation is running neck-and-neck with Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry in the West.

Scott Howard-Cooper: I guess we’re not saying Vinny Del Negro anymore. In that case, Randy Wittman. Once John Wall returns, possibly by the end of the week, the Wizards need to show considerable improvement. It’s one thing to be on 12-win pace with a beat-up roster, but quite another if this path continues for much longer.

Sekou Smith: Plenty of coaches should be worried now that guys whose teams are playing .500 or better are getting their walking papers. Judging a coach based solely on his team’s record, however, seems like a thing of the past. There’s so much more involved these days, what with all of the advanced metrics involved in the game today. It takes a very particular set of circumstances for a franchise to make a coaching change. We could pick on Alvin Gentry in Phoenix or even Randy Wittman in Washington, guys who have been in place for a while now and still haven’t been able to guide their teams out of the basement of their respective conferences. Skiles going was a bit of a surprise. But Brown and Johnson came into the season with more pressure on them than any other pair of coaches in the league. The expectations for both teams were enormous. So you knew if they struggled or failed to measure up to those expectations, there was a chance they could get popped. Beyond those obvious situations, however, there aren’t any glaring candidates for the coaching hot seat right now.

Who’s Sitting On A Hot Seat Now?


HANG TIME, Texas — Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

In the NBA that familiar line from the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” has a different twist.

Every time the bell rings a head coach gets his walking papers and a handful of others start looking over their shoulders.

It’s a tenuous life.

Of course, this season has already been quite unusual with Mike Brown fired by the Lakers after just five games. But now that the schedule has reached the one-third mark and claimed Avery Johnson, it’s time to look at some others down around the bottom of the standings.

Randy Wittman, Wizards (3-23) – No, he hasn’t had John Wall all season. Yes, he’s had to play at times without Nene and Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. But the Wizards are the only group in Washington that makes Congress look competent by comparison. After a recent 100-68 thumping by the almost-as-hapless Pistons, even Wittman seemed to have enough. “That was an embarrassment, and I apologize to our ownership and to our fans,” he said. “I especially apologize to anyone who watched that entire game. I would have turned it off after the first five minutes.” It would seem to be a matter of when, not if.

Monty Williams, Hornets (6-22) – It’s hard to see the Hornets turning right around and cutting Williams loose just months after giving him a four-year contract extension. There has been the matter of Eric Gordon’s injury and the fact that No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis was on the shelf for 13 games. But there are rumblings in New Orleans about his constantly changing rotations and collapse of his defense, which ranks 29th.

Byron Scott, Cavaliers (7-23)
— The Cavs are likely headed to their third straight trip to the lottery under Scott, but that doesn’t mean that he’s headed to the exit. The key to his previous success at New Jersey and New Orleans was having a top-notch point guard and Scott has an excellent relationship with maybe the next great thing in Kyrie Irving. This was always a long, heavy lift from the moment LeBron James bolted and that has not changed.

Mike Dunlap, Bobcats (7-21)
– What a difference a month makes. After beating the Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats were 7-5, had matched their win total from last season and their rookie coach was getting praised. Now 16 straight losses later, Dunlap is preaching patience with his young core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. He has earned that. A dozen of Charlotte’s 21 losses have come by 10 points or less, a dramatic change from the historically horrible last season when the Bobcats were rolled in one-third of their games by 20 points or more.

Lawrence Frank, Pistons (9-22)
— Frank insists that his Pistons are a better team than they were a year ago. The record — identical then and now — does not back that up. He says that his club now is more competitive, but just doesn’t know how to finish games. Some of the players have grumbled that there is also a failure of coach to make the right calls and adjustments when games get late. When push comes to shove, it’s the coach that gets nudged out the door.

Dwane Casey, Raptors (9-20)– Another one of those seasons when the Raptors were supposed to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference has gone south. Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza. Amir Johnson gets suspended for throwing his mouthguard at a referee. G.M. Bryan Colangelo says the talent is there, but the Raptors lack focus and attention to detail. The Raps’ offense is mediocre (ranked 17th) and their defense just bad (27th). Even in Canada during the winter, that all puts Casey on thin ice.

Keith Smart, Kings (9-19) – Smart got the job to replace Paul Westphal specifically because of what was perceived as an ability to work with the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. So he turned Cousins loose last season, let him do just about anything he pleased and got enough results to earn a contract extension. Now that Cousins has abused his free-rein relationship with his coach and another season is sinking fast, it would be easy to just blame Smart, which the Kings eventually will do. But this is a bad team with a knucklehead as its centerpiece and ownership that can’t tell you where they’ll be playing in two years.

Alvin Gentry, Suns (11-18) — It was at the end of a seven-game losing streak when Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com that Gentry’s job was safe. “We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” he said. Of course, that usually means start packing your bags. It was all about starting over in this first season post-Nash in the desert. He’s changed lineups more than his ties and the result is usually the same. Gentry is a good bet to last out the season, but it’s probably going to take a big finishing kick to return next year.

More Lineup Changes Expected For Suns

 
Coach Alvin Gentry is signaling another round of lineup changes for the Suns. Fair enough. They’re 7-13, have lost five in a row, including to the Pistons (by 40!) and Raptors, Gentry is searching for anything close to a good fit after a summer roster renovation, and this season in Phoenix is for developing rather than the playoffs. So search away.

But a possible demotion for Marcin Gortat? Now we’re talking signs of trouble.

Gortat was the biggest certainty of the entire roster at the start of camp, a double-double man in 2011-12 in his first full season there, one of the underrated centers of the game, a sign of consistency on a team slowly moving forward without Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Gortat and Luis Scola, one of the main newcomers, were supposed to be the tandem of veteran bigs who would keep the transitioning Suns in telescope range of respectability. Among several looming problems in Phoenix, center wasn’t one of them.

Except there was Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic noting Friday that Gortat was a candidate to be pulled from the starting lineup along with small forward Michael Beasley, an obvious choice at 37.4 percent from the field. If so, this goes well beyond the planned hunting for the right lineup combination.

But, wrote Coro:

Lineup moves might not be isolated to the Beasley situation. After a sensational start, Gortat’s play has dropped off drastically to the point that veteran Jermaine O’Neal went from rotation fringe to a departure from the team for his aunt’s death to playing crunch-time minutes instead of Gortat. Against Dallas, Gortat made an alleyoop on the Suns’ first play and then missed all seven of his other shots. The Suns rallied without a center (Jermaine O’Neal after taking an eye poke), as Luis Scola and Markieff Morris teamed for 28 points and 26 rebounds.

Gentry already made one set of moves earlier, putting Morris in for Scola at power forward and Shannon Brown for Jared Dudley at shooting guard. Now Gortat is at 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 31.1 minutes, while shooting 52.2 percent, and the Suns are looking at the possibility of turning over the entire front court before the season is a quarter old.

Gentry is saying, according to the Republic, that it is “more than likely” Beasley will be going to the bench, as soon as Saturday against the Clippers and probably in favor of P.J. Tucker, if Tucker is ready after spraining his right knee Thursday. If an accompanying switch comes at center, the options are not as clear. The Suns could go with O’Neal or try to keep playing small with the Scola-Morris pairing that worked well the last game.

Alvin Gentry’s Uncertain Future

 
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. (more…)

We’ve Got Our Eyes On You

 

On opening night everybody is undefeated and optimistic. But that doesn’t mean some players — young and old — aren’t more under the gun to step forward and establish their place in the league. So we present a couple of fistfuls of guys who need to hit the ground running:

Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers – It’s been four seasons now of occasional flashes and teases. Now that Brandon Roy and Greg Oden are simply yellowed pages in the history books, it is time for Batum to be the twin support along with LaMarcus Aldridge that is a bridge to the future. Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard might draw a lot of attention in the backcourt along with fellow newbie Meyers Leonard in the middle, but after getting his big paycheck, Batum must deliver the goods every night.

Michael Beasley, Suns — As Bob Dylan might have sung, how many roads does a man walk down before he’s considered a bust? This is already the third stop on the reclamation tour of the former No. 2 overall pick, and if he can’t succeed in coach Alvin Gentry’s offense-friendly atmosphere in Phoenix, what’s left? Beasley can score. He can rebound. What he has to prove is an ability to keep his head in the game and with the program.

Andrew Bogut, Warriors — There’s virtually nobody in the league that questions his ability as a passer, scorer and defender in the middle. The only question is his durability. It’s been four years since Bogut played more than 69 games in a season and twice he’s managed only 36 and 12. Coming back from a fractured ankle, he missed the entire preseason schedule and only practiced for the first time on Monday. The Warriors need him on the floor to even think of making a run at the playoffs. (more…)

Suns Looking Within For Improvement

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With the Steve Nash era over and no sign of a Valley of the Sun-themed version of the Big 3 on the horizon, fans of the Phoenix Suns are bracing themselves for a rebuilding project that could be as painstaking a process as they have witnessed in years.

It’s a fact of life for fans of basically every franchise in the NBA (save for the Lakers), and a reality that the Suns organization is tackling in a somewhat unconventional and rather refreshing way.

Instead of scrambling for a quick fix or looking for some superstar to rescue them, the Suns are focusing their attentions within their program and going about the business of trying to build a playoff contender from the inside. They are making player development the staples of their operation, with 17-year NBA veteran Lindsey Hunter leading the charge as the coach in charge of helping develop homegrown talent.

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic provides some details:

Hunter began working out players this month with more individualized plans to come in September, when voluntary sessions begin.

“We’re trying to put together a system where we’re no longer looking for outside influences to create a better product,” Hunter said. “We want to do it right from the interior. A lot of people say, ‘You got to go get better players,’ which is true. But you have to make what you have better and we’re serious about it now.”

The Suns intend to hire a young former NBA big man and make the staff available to players “24-7,” General Manager Lance Blanks said.

“This is really important to me,” Blanks said. “It’s not something that was needed. What the organization was doing worked. It won at a very high level. Different personnel and situation. This will create a lot of continuity between front office, coaches and training staff.”

(more…)

Hot Suns are worthy of discussion





HOUSTONMarcus Camby pulled down 18 rebounds in the first half on Friday night and gave the Suns something to talk about during the intermission.

“It was a discussion,” said coach Alvin Gentry. “Very much a one-way discussion. I think the point was well-taken.”

On the receiving end of the “discussion” were Gentry’s big men, center Marcin Gortat and forward Channing Frye. It was suggested that perhaps someone could possibly do something to make collecting rebounds a little more difficult than plucking daisies on a spring day for Mr. Camby.

So the Suns played with more energy, more urgency, more desperation and Camby didn’t get a single rebound in the second half, while Phoenix got a 112-105 win.

“We just got yelled at,” said Gortat, who finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. “We just came out harder. Let’s say the first half was just a warmup. There’s not a situation with the team. We’re all committed to winning games.

“Yes, let’s call it a discussion. But there were no issues, no problems at all. I already talked to him four times as soon as the game was over. If the guy grabs 18 rebounds in one half, then someone is not doing his job, someone has got to get yelled out. Unfortunately, it was me. Really, it was a funny situation, a story that you can put in a book.”

If the Suns continue their amazing stretch drive, it could eventually be a chapter in a real-life fairytale. Phoenix appeared dead in the water just over six weeks ago, sitting at 14-20. But now the Suns have reeled off 17 wins in 8 games and are sitting just one game behind Houston for the final playoff spot.

“It was hard not to think of this as a must-win game,” said Steve Nash.

It’s hard to not think of the stretch run of the schedule that way for the Suns. Starting tonight in San Antonio, Phoenix will play six of its last seven games against teams with records above .500, all of whom have something at stake in the West race.

A few days ago, the Rockets appeared to be in good position, but stumbled twice at home. Denver has been up and down. Utah lost on Friday night in New Orleans. The door could be open for the Suns.

With Grant Hill back in the lineup just two weeks after knee surgery, with Nash on top of his game and feeding Gortat, Jared Dudley stepping up and the long-suffering Michael Redd just happy to be able to play and contribute again, would you really bet against the surging Suns?

That’s worth another discussion.

Blogtable: Biggest West Surprises

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Which team most surprises you in the West at this point: Clippers, Jazz or Suns?


Steve Aschburner: Utah. In winning five straight through Tuesday and six of their last seven, the Jazz are navigating close ones and blowouts, high-scoring tilts such as the 113-105 pasting of Cleveland and grinders like their 85-73 victory over Milwaukee last week. The ball is moving – even through notorious stopper Al Jefferson, a great guy with something to prove. They’re also getting quality work from contributors young (Alec Burks, Derrick Favors) and old (Earl Watson, Josh Howard).

Fran Blinebury: After the Jazz opened up the schedule getting clobbered in three of their first four games by an average of 15.6 points, it certainly looked like the first full season P.S. (Post Sloan) was going to bring nothing but misery. Instead coach Tyrone Corbin has shown a stubbornness to stick with the ancient Raja Bell in his starting backcourt and a willingness to let his kiddie corp – Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks — learn on the run. It’s paid off with some fun, aggressive ball.  The Jazz are in deep Northwest Division water with OKC, Portland and Denver, but it looks like they’ll be able to tread water until ready to make a splash in the future.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Slight edge to the Jazz because they have recovered from a slow start despite having the farthest to go. The Clippers were always going to be good and the Suns were always going to be competitive, but Utah has been particularly encouraging with such a young roster. (more…)