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In the end it came down to a mutale decision between the owner, president, and the coach to part ways and head in a different direction with the head coaching job. After five seasons, 148 wins, and a trip to the Western Conference Finals, this is the way Alvin Gentry's tenure with the Phoenix Suns comes to an end.

To modify the great T.S. Elliott, "this is how the 2012-2013 season ends, not with a bang, but with a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks."

Now the focus turns to deciding which member of the staff with no NBA head coaching experience is going to run the show for 41 games as an open audition. Who is up for the task?

From early reports it looks like the Suns like Lindsey Hunter internally, but they are hesitating on that move in order to give him a "clean slate" starting next season according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski reports:

Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) tweeted at 11:15 AM on Fri, Jan 18, 2013:
After firing of Alvin Gentry today, top candidates to become Suns interim coach: assistants Elston Turner and Lindsey Hunter, sources say.

Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) tweeted at 11:17 AM on Fri, Jan 18, 2013:
Suns front office installed Hunter into organization and see him as future head coach there. Turner is a favorite of owner, Robert Sarver.

Here are the candidates for the job:

Lindsey Hunter

Hunter is a favorite around the league and was in the running for head coaching jobs this past summer. After not getting on a staff he took over the Suns Player Development program, tasked with bringing along Kendall Marshall. Little did he know that 41 games in he would be in a position to coach Marshall in the NBA after a stint in the Developmental League for both of them.

This would be a big jump from player development to holding the clipboard with 13 professionals looking to you for answers.

The league has been filling up with former back-up point guards moving into head coaching jobs young, and with lots of success. Hunter is believed to be one of the next in that line. Naming him now gives a 41 game sample before deciding this summer if they want to go external with the coaching search. They may not have to.

Elston Turner

Similar to Hunter, Turner was in interviews all summer to get a head coaching job. He was a finalist for the Portland Trail Blazers job before it went to Terry Stotts. On this staff he is the defensive coordinator and has cache around the league as a future head coach. Over the course of the two seasons with the Suns the team has shown improvement, but then drastic regression, mainly due to the inconsistency among the roster.

Dan Majerle

Over the years Majerle has flirted with head coaching jobs including with the Philadelphia 76ers before they hired Doug Collins. Right now most would say he is not ready, but has spent time on the bench next to Gentry for five years as an assistant.

Don't count out Thunder Dan as a local favorite and having played for Pat Riley, Cotton Fitzsimmons, and Paul Westphal over the years.

Long Shots:

Noel Gillespie

Nine seasons as an advanced scout and now playing a duel role as an assistant coach makes Gillespie as knowledgeable as anyone on the staff. He has seen the reign of Mike D'Antoni, Terry Porter, and Alvin Gentry while playing an invaluable role on the team.

Down the road Gillespie will be running or coaching a team.

Igor Kokoslav

The first European with an NBA Championship as a coach has the resume to get in the interview room for a head coaching job. He has spent 12 seasons as an NBA Assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, and currently the Suns. On the staff he is known as a teacher and developer. Over the years he has worked with many players in Europe at a high level and in the NBA.

Is it time for the Suns to hire a foreign born head coach, with the credentials and internal experience?

Updated 1:56 p.m. MST: Alvin Gentry and the Phoenix Suns have agreed to part ways nearly halfway through the 2012-13 season and with the team sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference standings...

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At 7:24 during the third quarter of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns clawed their way out of a thirteen point deficit to take a ten point lead. Their inspired play angered me because they were ruining our plans to move up the draft order.

Never fear, these are our Suns!

From that point on, the Suns managed to do what they have consistently done this season – quit.

They quit guarding Monta Ellis. They quit attacking the rim aggressively while allowing Larry Sanders to gobble up swats. They quit helping on defense. They quit on each other. Little by little, the lead they had so valiantly fought for was chipped away by a team that seemed to want it more.

As I was watching this disgrace of an effort, I couldn’t help think about what the fallout might be. In fact, I distinctly remember typing a post in our game thread that stated “this game is going to be the nail in Gentry’s coffin. I guarantee he is fired tomorrow.”

But prior to pressing “post”, I thought about my comment and decided to delete it. It was not that I changed my mind, but that I felt my comment would be mistaken for some sort of call to action, and I did not want people to get the wrong idea. I did not want Gentry fired.

Yet it was clear to me that this game was one of those games. This game was one in which it was obvious the team is completely disjointed and are all acting on their own agendas. This game was the final example that nothing Gentry has or can do will make a difference. Their performance in the third and fourth quarter was a slap in Gentry’s face, and while I do not know yet whether Gentry was fired, or if he stepped away, my guess would be that he had had enough.

Heck, we all have.

The Suns are sure to hold a press conference to provide a smattering of details that may or may not be true. Words like “time to go in a different direction” and “mutual decision” are sure to be uttered.

Yet the real truth has been played out in front of us over and over again for all to see. This team fits together like a fat guy in a little coat [RIP Chris Farley]. The word synergy gets thrown around quite a bit, yet that word does not exist with the Suns locker room. It also seems to me that these individuals really do not like each other all that much, at least in the basketball sense. When you have a group of individuals on their own agenda, it is nearly impossible to find a way to be cohesive. Every missed pass, shot or defensive rotation boils up an avalanche of anger and blame. At that point, there is no hope but to make a change, and thus why I believed that Gentry would be the one under the bus.

Yet is this Alvin Gentry’s doing? Should he shoulder the blame for the failures of a team that many mistakenly considered “talented”? Did Gentry not make enough adjustments to try to turn things around?

I am of the belief that Alvin Gentry is, within the fraternity of all NBA coaches, a decent coach. I don’t think he is Greg Popovich, but I also don’t think he is Magic Johnson. The fact of the matter is, Gentry’s contract was up, and IF, IF he was fired, that says everything you need to know about this team’s front office and owner. Firing Gentry now makes little sense. It is simply change for sake of change, another move by this franchise that lacks clear strategy. But we don’t know all of the facts, so we cannot make the assumption that Gentry was fired.

If Gentry decided to step down now because he realized that he has lost this team for good, then I can respect that decision. As someone who has had teams that were lost causes, I understand Gentry’s pain. You beg, plead, coddle, scream, beg some more and yet nothing you do makes a difference. At some point you realize that your personnel simply are not capable of getting their act together and no coach on the planet is going to be able to change that. I might question why he does not simply ride this season out, but he would have his reasons and I don’t begrudge him for that.

I guess we will find out more once the press conference is held. Until then, all we can do is speculate on what happened, and start the rumors about who replaces him. And to the man who does, I feel for you. Oh sure, for a brief period of time there will be an uptick in effort and enthusiasm that typically follows a change in coaching. But that never lasts and those teams always fall back to their norm in time. This team will be no different and I feel for any coach coming in mid-season trying to take over this mess.

The Suns have officially announced the "mutual decision" and scheduled a press conference with Lon Babby for 3:30pm. Kris Habbas will attend and cover the event.

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns and Alvin Gentry have mutually agreed to part ways after his five-plus seasons as head coach, the club announced today. An interim coach will be named in the next 24-48 hours

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When your team goes 13-28 to start the season it's not a huge surprise to see the coach get axed. At the same time, this roster is seriously flawed and that can't all be blamed on Alvin.

Gentry's contract was set to expire at the end of this season and it looks like Robert Sarver and Lon Babby didn't want to wait that long. Of course, Babby's contract is up at the end of this season as well so we'll see what happens there. As for Alvin, perhaps he'd simply had enough losing and didn't see the need to stick around for the rest of the season. We'll see what they all have to say soon enough.

No word yet on who will slide over and finish of this mess of a campaign. It could be Elston Turner, who was hired under the Babby regime, or perhaps Thunder Dan Majerle will get his chance. I'm sure that will be answered soon enough and honestly, does it really matter?

Alvin will be fine. He's got plenty of friends in the media and won't take much blame for the Suns situation. He's been very effective over the years and maintaining the proper distance from personnel decisions. If he wants to coach again, I'm sure he can.

Meanwhile, the Suns under-performed their meager talent level this season and are a complete mess and when that happens, heads typically roll.

Jude LaCava was first with the news:

Alvin Gentry is out as head coach of the Suns

— Jude LaCava (@judefox10) January 18, 2013

John Gambadoro quickly followed on Twitter with more details.

Here's more on Gentry's career:

Alvin Gentry, Suns to part ways, according to report - SBNation.com
Gentry assumed head coaching duties in 2008-09 on an interim basis and led the team to an 18-13 mark over 31 games, and he eventually assumed full-time duties with the team. In his career, Gentry owns a 335-370 record as a head coach (.475 winning percentage). His best season with the Suns came during 2009-10, when the team went 54-28 and advanced to Western Conference Finals, where they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

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