More photos » Barry Gossage - NBAE/Getty Images
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.
More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images
STAY HEALTHY, ROBIN! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Let's call this Suns Preview Lite, or Suns Pseudo Preview. This one is for the rest of the SB Nation. Alex, Trevor, Panama and I will soon come up with something much more verbose and impressive in the coming weeks. So, allow this to serve as that little hit to keep you from full on Suns withdrawal.
1) What significant moves were made in the offseason?
Off the court, Robert Sarver leveled the front office. Gone are Steve Kerr and David Griffin. In their place is former player agent Lon Babby as President of Basketball Operations and Lance Blanks as General Manager. Other additions to the front office include John Treloar at new Director of Player Personnel.
2) What are the team's biggest strengths?
Collective Depth, Experience, Flexibility, The Bench, Underdog Status, Team Chemistry.
Collective depth could also be called selective depth. The Suns may be able to go 10-11 deep but said depth may not be in all the right places. Nevertheless, the Suns return one of the best second units in the NBA and have enhanced it with the additions of Childress and Warrick.
The additions of Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglu allow Steve Nash to play off the ball more. The idea is that with Turk's ball handling skills, the Suns can utilize Nash's high shooting percentage to make up some of the scoring they lost with Amare Stoudemire's departure. The move also allows Nash to rest more and reduce the normal wear and tear he obtains during the normal 82 game season at PG. Childress can play at the 2 or 3 and provides a solid bench presence to spell either Jason Richardson or Grant Hill.
Last season the Suns weren't picked to win anything. The experts said the usual: Phoenix was too soft on the boards, they couldn't play defense, yet they didn't have enough firepower to run like the old SSOL days. Alvin Gentry and Co. responded to the predictions by creating a hybrid version of the D'Antoni led Suns that ran wild when they could, yet also continued use of the pick and roll. Robin Lopez's development allowed for his use as an inside scoring option.
3) What are the team's weaknesses?
Size, Front Court Depth, Age
Robin Lopez is a curly headed beast who made huge strides last season after overcoming some early season injuries and the infamous "glass door" incident. But he has spine problems that may prove to be chronic and catastrophic to the Suns. If he goes down for any significant length of time, the season could easily go sideways for Phoenix. Then again, they made a nice playoff push without his presence last season. Let's just say life is easier with a healthy Lopez.
The same goes for Grant Hill and Steve Nash, both who reside on the wrong side of 30 continue to defy age and the experts by playing 80 something games per season. Significant injuries (knockin on wood) could make things pretty dang difficult for the Suns.
Amare Stoudemire was correctly deemed to be a defensive liability, however he brought down 20+ points and 9 boards a game last season. No one expects that individually from Hedo Turkoglu, Channing Frye or Hakim Warrick. The Suns have once again imparted the "rebound by committee" plan due to their lack of enforcers up front. Rookie Gani Lawal and Dwayne Jones should help out in the dirtworker role yet both of them are offensive liabilities at this point.
4) What are the goals for this team?
It begins with acclimating the new acquisitions and finding the chemistry that catapulted the Suns into the 3 seed of the playoffs then Western Conference Finals last season. A run at the post season is a reasonable goal for them. But a deep run in a reloaded Western Conference will be difficult. But if we've learned anything from last season, this team is capable of nearly anything when running on all cylinders.
5) What Could Have the Biggest influence on the upcoming season?
Chemistry. Injuries. Size
There are a flood of "if's" surrounding the Phoenix Suns entering the 2010-11 season. If Robin Lopez's back gives him trouble and results in significant time off the court, the Suns could be in for a long season due to their lack of front court size. If Steve Nash misses significant time, is Goran Dragic ready to step in to the starters shoes? If the new guys cannot play together, make up for Amare's loss... if, if, if...Bad news all around. That's the pessimistic and "expert" view. On the other hand, the new guys know how to play the game, it's up to Alvin Gentry to mix and match. After some experimentation, this team could be a very tough match up for a lot of teams. Gentry even believes they are better than last season. I think he may be right.
Predicted Regular Season Record: 51-31
BRING ON THE SEASON BOYS!!! There's a whole mess of local and overseas Suns fans who CANNOT WAIT to see how this squad performs come tip off.