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Alvin Gentry

Alvin Gentry was fired by the Phoenix Suns after going 13-28 in the first half of the 2012-13 season. As the Suns coach for almost four full seasons, Gentry was 145-116, good for the 7th-best winning percentage (of 18 former coaches) in Suns coaching history. Most of that damage was done with a Suns squad boasting at least two All-Stars, one of whom a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

But Gentry could not get this starless edition of the Suns to win enough games to keep his job. Sure, you could blame a deluded front office for setting unreachable expectations, but Gentry clearly wasn't able to keep harmony in his locker room after long-time captains Steve Nash and Grant Hill left the team. Gentry is a veterans coach who can help them scheme and claw to more wins as long as they already know how to do the basics. He's not a task-master who teaches every inch of every movement in a play - he expects the players to already know those basics.

According to reports, Gentry is under consideration for the Charlotte job. He will likely be interviewed by other teams as well who are looking for veteran coaches who know how to run sideline and manage a game.

Lindsey Hunter

Lindsey Hunter, the Suns interim head coach for the second half of this season, is now technically no longer the Phoenix Suns head coach as his coaching contract expires and he awaits a new GM to lobby for an interview with.

Hunter went 12-29, just a game worse than Gentry with a lesser squad (Gortat missed the last two months, and O'Neal missed a chunk as well) focused more on playing youth than winning games.

But Hunter was overmatched on the sideline and under-prepared to find offensive and defensive schemes that would maximize his team's talents. He said he learned a lot by the end of the season, possibly none more valuable than accepting he can't (and shouldn't) expect every player to play the way he played in the NBA.

"I've learned to be careful with that. In the beginning as a young guy," Hunter said last week. "I would always want guys like myself. But you can't have a whole team of rowdy, defensive rough necks. They wouldn't score but 60 points a game, but they'd be good defensively.

"You can't have a bunch of guys out there that's ready to fight every night. It a mix and match. I've learned that. Somebody has to put the ball in the hole."

Early on, Hunter expected every wing player to get into the grill of the offensive player. But not all guys are equipped to do that without becoming a matador who incents the player to drive right past him toward the basket.

Hunter struggled with finding a set rotation - mostly a product of trying younger guys in different situations - and realizes in his next gig he will have to be better at that.

"You always want a definitive rotation," Hunter said. "So guys know what is going on. In the situation we were in, it was tough because we weren't consistently playing well. And when you're not consistently playing well, you try to find combinations of guys that can. And unfortunately we were doing that quite a bit. It kind of goes hand in hand. If you think you've got five guys who can consistently get a win, you go with that. We were searching."

Hunter has a lot to learn, but he did grow up on the job in the past few months. The players all recognized that and respected it. They also appreciated Hunter's no-nonsense style, requiring young guys to pay attention and learn rather than let their minds wander in practice.

Hunter has reportedly asked the Suns for permission to interview with Detroit, where he played as a backup point guard for much of his career and even won a championship.

Other former Suns coaches looking for work

Terry Porter, Scott Skiles and Paul Westphal are all looking for head coaching opportunities. Just because Lon Babby said the Suns need to respect their past more, don't look for these guys to return to the Valley. Westphal flamed out mightily with a young team in Sacramento. Skiles is great with young kids, but wears out his welcome really quickly. And Terry Porter... yeah that's not going to happen.

Former Suns coaches still employed include Mike D'Antoni, who might just be out of a job in a week or so if/when the Lakers get wiped from the playoffs handily. D'Antoni has not earned any fans in LA, but probably won't come back to the Valley either. He's only shown he can dominate the game with the perfect point guard, Steve Nash, in his prime and a roster built to work with Nash. D'Antoni was bad in Denver (interim) and Phoenix before Nash (interim), and has been bad in New York and Los Angeles since then.

Lionel Hollins was an assistant coach for the Suns for years and would be a good coach in the Valley, but he's currently employed in Memphis and highly unlikely to be on the market.

Dan Majerle has already taken the head coaching job at Grand Canyon University, apparently more interested in (a) staying in the valley and (b) showing he can be a head coach then moving on to a better NBA coaching gig in the near term.

All depends on the GM

Check out Kris' post on this subject today for more on the GM candidates. So far, it's a retread of the search in 2010 without the top-end targets like Demps (NO) and Dennis Lindsey (Utah). No new names have been confirmed to the list, though Babby likes to keep things quiet.

We can only hope that the GM has a license to go young, and hires a coach who can teach kids how to play the game right.

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More thoughts on the 2012-13 season to come next week. Guest appearances, playoff talk, college scouting and more to come in the weeks leading up to the lottery selection show. Stay tuned.

Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 20

Lon Babby wasn’t ducking the truth on Tuesday when he met with the media to discuss the decision by the franchise to part ways with general manager Lance Blanks. That only means the pressure is...

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When the Phoenix Suns fired general manager Lance Blanks on Monday, it perhaps wasn’t a shock considering president of basketball ops Lon Babby had signed a contract extension that didn’t...

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For the most part, this was a press conference that went about as you might expect it to go. I wasn't there. I'm in Washington, D.C. (where the weather is a gorgeous, sunny 60 degrees) but I had more time than our other folks today so I listened to the full audio and am providing this report.

Full Babby press conference.

Enjoy. Or not.

There were a couple of main points that I took from what Lon had to say. I'll start with one that's fairly inconsequential but also pretty interesting in a gossip-y sort of way.

Charles Barkley as next GM?

Asked about the Chuckster stepping into the hot seat, Babby had a very fun answer.

"I'll consider anybody."

Great news for our own candidate!

But then Lon goes on...

"I think the job requires rowing the boat every single day and it's an all consuming job and my impression is that he has a pretty full and good life and taking on a challenge like this might be something that he really doesn't want if he knew what it entailed."

Oh, snap!

"But I don't really want to go beyond that."

Well, that's good because you wouldn't want to offend Chuck by implying he's too lazy for the job (which is probably a fair assessment IMHO).

If not Charles, Who?

As for who will fill the role, Babby left the door wide open. He'd like someone with GM experience but it's not necessary. He thinks the person will have at least front office experience (sorry, Grant) but in theory that's not a requirement (go, Grant!). The candidate will not likely come from "in-house" options.

The role will be pretty much the same as it was for Blanks: First and foremost he will be the "Chief Talent Officer" and have loudest voice in the room on basketball decisions as has been the case for the last three years.

Babby made a point of not scape-goating Blanks: "I don't for one minute absolve myself for the decisions we've made."

But When?

The Suns are at the early stages of the replacement process with no details given about potential names, interview schedules, etc. Lon simply said they will move with "all due deliberate speed" and won't rush but there is some urgency.

"We can't control the calendar. The calendar controls us," Babby added, implying that he can't stop time.

The preference is to have the job filled before the draft, but Lon promised that they would "get it right" regardless.

John Treloar appears to be leading the draft prep process and Babby, as he's often wont to do, promised the Suns would be fully prepared.

Emphasis on Analytics

This bit stood out to me as "news" in that it was new to me. Babby called this the "summer of analytics". He said that last summer was about getting training facilities from best in the league to world class.

Lon went on to explain the need to integrate the data into coaching as well and that would be a major point of emphasis this summer and something the new GM would need to understand.

Babby's goal was make the Suns into one of the top-tier teams in terms using analytics to help make basketball decisions. They have someone internally running that program and have invested in technology to gather data and now they need to take that to the next level with the new GM and coach.

Interesting, huh?

What Happened with Blanks?

I'm going to read between the lines here because Lon (rightly) wasn't clear about Blanks' failings.

Blanks came in like a quiet bull and left steaming piles of dung at the feet of everyone who was already in the corral.

Lon talked early on about needing to be respectful of the past and that they "lost our way a bit" on that front. He also stressed the need to acknowledge and respect the employees that have been here many many years.

In my opinion, that's something Blanks not only failed to do, but actively thwarted.

He came in like a quiet bull and left steaming piles of dung at the feet of everyone who was already in the corral. It's good to hear Babby recognize that and make strides to repair the damage.

Along those lines, he several times defined his goal as building and earning the confidence and trust of all the various stakeholders: fans, business partners, players, staff, media and (most importantly) employees.

Was Blanks disrespectful of employees? From what I observed and have heard, the answer is yes and Lon seemed to acknowledge that as best he could. Mad props for that, Lon.

Other Notable Stuff

Here's some paraphrased bullet points.

- This was painful for both sides (except Blanks text message to Coro: "the news is not bad news" suggests the feeling might not be mutual..whatever. Words.)

- Want to make great franchise better. While not reflected in our record, we've accomplished that. (huh?)

- Have a list of potential coaching candidates. Wouldn't say if started contacting people. Lindsey Hunter is a "good, strong candidate." (hmmmm)

- This is still a great place to work. Great city, great franchise with great history. (YES IT IS)

- Expectations ratcheted down so person coming in will be in a great spot.

- Not likely to go with coach/GM as same person. Don't see it's possible to for one person to do.

- Where I (Babby) am now is different than three years ago. Lessons learned.

- The most important part of the GM position is the same. "I have a little more confidence on the margins to do certain things". Role is about player and talent evaluation and making basketball decisions.

- Expected to be better than we were this season. About mid-way through we embraced where we were and used that to see what had with young players.

- Goal is to accumulate assets: players, picks, etc. and to build confidence that we are moving in the right direction.

- Lon still believes keeping Nash last two years was the right decision. "We owed it to that group to let that terrific period of Suns basketball to run it's course." (Me too)

READ THIS

Our friends at Valley of the Suns compiled the Seven Best Lance Blanks quotes. Props to them for even finding seven quotes...these are fun:

Lance Blanks' funniest quotes
No. 5: To open Michael Beasley’s introductory press conference “I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my whole career to welcome this young man into our organization. This is just extremely exciting for me as I know it is many others in the organization. I honestly feel this way, he is a wonderful, wonderful young man. I feel fortunate to be sitting next to him.”

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