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Alvin Gentry, head coach of the Phoenix Suns through 2013 (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
For those who have been worried about the Phoenix Suns' lack of continuity this summer, here's a breath of fresh air for you. Alvin Gentry has agreed to an extension, putting him under contract as the Phoenix Suns head coach for the next three seasons.
The reason I made this a story instead of a fanshot is this: my perspective on Gentry's contract is different than most others.
When the summer began, while the flush from a deep playoff run was still warming our hearts, Robert Sarver proceeded to slash our hearts open with a knife. At least that's how many fans saw it (not me).
When he was done, the Suns' front office was gutted of its top two talent evaluators: GM (Steve Kerr) and Assistant GM (David Griffin). And this after Kerr and Griffin had found a way rebuild the club at the same time they competed for a Western Conference title. Completely unheard of, really. Rumors and opinions abound as to why this sudden change occurred, and those have been discussed ad naseum so we won't rehash it here.
Let's just move on.
Sarver found himself a new front office.
Sarver, in essence, hired 3 people to replace 2: Lon Babby as President of Basketball Ops, Lance Blanks as GM, and John Treloar as VP of Basketball Ops. Todd Quinter is still around, I believe, to focus on a new position entirely: scouting current NBA players for acquisitions. Plus, they hired a brand new coach exclusively to work with young players (a Serbian guy who was Dragic's personal coach in the past).
You don't have to call Sarver smart, but you can't call him cheap anymore. He's invested more money into his new fangled front office than he had previously.
Okay, back to Alvin Gentry.
Many were miffed when, in the wake of Kerr and Griffin's exodus, Sarver refused to extend Alvin Gentry's contract and those of his staff. He did pick up their options, guaranteeing their salaries for 2 more seasons apiece rather than 1. But he didn't give them new deals.
Many clamored for lucrative new deals for the magical head coach and his staff. Continuity was the word used a lot. If you're going to fire your GM, at least keep the head coach !*(*#$*$(#)*$!
But not me.
While Kerr and Griffin's spots were unfilled, it made ZERO business sense to extend Gentry.
It's the GM's job to hire the head coach, because the head coach has to play the guys the GM signs. If the head coach knows he's the owner's guy, then the GM is pantsless.
There's a built-in lack of respect when you inherit a team that's already in place for the long term. I know. I've been that guy (Blanks, in this case, but in a different industry). You're powerless to change anything until you change the team.
I'm glad that Gentry got an extension - but I'm even gladder that he got it AFTER Blanks and Babby came on board. Now it's their decision, not Sarver's. They offered this extension as a team. They *, and it was their right to instead have said "let's see how 2010-2011 goes before jumping into any more guaranteed years".
Gentry, Blanks and Babby are a team, with a heirarchy. It's a good thing when that heirarchy is hired/extended in that order.
Even though the extension seemed like a no-brainer, it's MUCH MUCH better that it comes from Babby and Blanks, rather than Sarver.
Here's the full press release, including a couple good quotes:
Official Press Release
SUNS SIGN GENTRY TO CONTRACT EXTENSION
Phoenix head coach signed through 2012-13
PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns signed head coach Alvin Gentry to a contract extension that will keep him with the club through the 2012-13 season.
"It was important to extend Alvin's contract before this season," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "He proved his mettle as the perfect coach for the Suns last season. We are excited to have him lead our team going forward."
Originally elevated as the 14th head coach in franchise history on an interim basis on Feb. 16, 2009, Gentry was named the club's head coach on May 9, 2009. In just 113 games under his leadership, Gentry's Suns have compiled a 72-41 (.637) record, giving him the third-highest winning percentage among coaches in franchise history (Paul Westphal, Mike D'Antoni).
"This extension gives me the opportunity to keep improving this team," said Gentry. "It shows I'm working for an owner who wants to win and demonstrates the confidence he has in me. I am really happy to be working with the management team we have in place and am very excited for the start of our new season."
The 30-year coaching veteran in both the professional and collegiate ranks took the reins of the Suns in 2009 with the stated goals of establishing a homecourt advantage, returning the club to its trademark offensive explosiveness, and developing a young, productive bench.
In just a season-plus under his leadership, the Suns own a 46-12 (.793) home mark, seventh-best of any NBA team in that span, and perhaps most impressively are 31-6 (.838) at home against the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Phoenix has led the NBA in scoring in each of the last two seasons and averaged 112.3 points during his tenure, even more than the trendsetting Suns posted from 2004-05 to 2007-08 (109.8). In 2009-10, the Suns bench ranked 10th in the NBA, averaging 33.2 points. Gentry and the bench gained national attention during the playoffs when the group increased its scoring average to 34.1 points, best in the NBA, as Gentry played 10 or more Suns in 16-straight postseason games for the first time since 1993.
In his first full season on the bench in 2009-10, Gentry was a two-time NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month for November 2009 and March 2010. In leading the Suns to 54 wins, his career-high as a coach, and the conference's third-best record, Gentry finished fifth in NBA Coach of the Year voting.
Gentry became just the fifth head coach in franchise history to lead his team to a Western Conference Finals berth in his first full season. Gentry coached the Suns to 10 postseason victories in 2010, tied for the second-most in a single postseason in franchise history.
In 21 seasons in the NBA, Gentry has enjoyed three other head coaching stints with the Los Angeles Clippers (2000-03), Detroit Pistons (1997-2000) and Miami Heat (1995). He has worked alongside some of the game's most respected coaches, including Larry Brown, Kevin Loughery, Doug Collins and Mike D'Antoni. Gentry joined the Suns organization as an assistant coach on June 1, 2004.
A point guard at Appalachian State under Press Maravich and Bobby Cremins, Gentry earned a degree in management in 1997 and began his coaching career as a graduate assistsant at the University of Colorado the following season.
The 55-year-old Gentry is married to Suzanne and has three children: Alexis, Ryan and Matthew.