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, 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.