You can't always be on top. Everyone falls down at some point. The trick is bouncing back up.
The Phoenix Suns franchise has the 4th-highest winning percentage in NBA history, made the playoffs two-thirds of the time, and participated in two NBA Finals series (without a ring). But there are always dark days in every franchise's history.
The 60s saw the Suns lose the coin flip, settling for Neal Walk instead of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar to you younguns). The 80s was a terrible time, rife with drug scandal and high picks that did not pan out as planned.
And now the early 20-teens was awful. No one wanted it to be awful. The Suns had just reached the Western Conference Finals for the 3rd time in 6 seasons. Bellies were fat. Noses in the clouds. People took winning for granted and decided that cutting corners here and there wouldn't make a difference on the bottom line.
Rumor had it that the wunderkind GM/President Steve Kerr and managing partner Robert Sarver had a disagreement over pay for the front office staff. Rumor said that while Kerr wanted to stay as GM beyond the day Amare Stoudemire signed a max offer with another team, managing partner Sarver didn't want to give him a raise. Rumor tacked on the nugget that Kerr wanted raises for the entire staff, and again Sarver refused.
Rumor's a cool cat, by the way. He's always got a juicy story to tell, as long as you listen close enough because his voice is always just a little too low to hear everything clearly. And he rarely repeats himself, always moving on to the next juicy story.
Whatever happened in the shadow of the Western Conference Finals, Kerr was suddenly gone. So was his Assistant GM David Griffin. And within two years, so were most of the front office staff who worked for them, including Assistant Director of Basketball Ops Amin Elhassan and President Rick Welts, who took care of the business side of the house.
The old regime and the new regime just didn't get along, no matter how hard anyone tried. Rumor said that they didn't try too hard, but his older brother Fact never corroborated the story.
Fret not, Suns fans. The front office that brought you the WCF in 2010 has landed quite nicely on their feet in other venues, as has the head coach who won 10 playoff games that year after winning 54 regular season games.
First, Rick Welts went to Golden State to hold a similar position while Kerr went into the broadcast booth for probably better pay and definitely fewer hours and headaches. Asst GM Griffin took a similar position in Cleveland to fill the spot vacated by L____ Bl____.
Gang back together
Two weeks ago, after four years back in the broadcast booth for TNT, former GM/President Steve Kerr (who had never previously held a front office position in basketball) has now been named the head coach of the very talented Golden State Warriors, despite never coaching a single game of basketball in his life.
And just like in the broadcast booth, Kerr does not have to worry about salary demands. Kerr is being paid $5 million a year to learn NBA coaching on the fly. Regardless of the money committed to Kerr, this becoming a head coach despite never walking a sideline thing is hit-and-miss. It worked for Mark Jackson, but failed for Lindsey Hunter.
But Kerr is such a smart guy, he's bound to succeed. This is the guy who turned average (by NBA standards) athleticism into a decade-plus NBA career as a marksman who helped teams win 5 championships. Then he excelled in the broadcast booth, making enough money to become part-owner of the Suns. Then he slipped right into a GM/President position and, after a fitful start, helped the Suns reach one more apex before the team fell apart.
And then, to prove his intelligence more than anything to date, he stepped off the front line of the Suns just before they approached to cliff.
Alvin Gentry stayed behind, remaining the Suns coach for another two and a half seasons - a full 41 games longer than Steve Nash lasted.
But Gentry has landed quite cleanly on his feet as well. He spent has season as the lead assistant for Doc Rivers' Los Angeles Clippers. And now, he's reunited with Kerr in Golden State.
Gentry, who spent last season on Doc Rivers' staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, has agreed in principle to a three-year deal with the Warriors, a source said. The Warriors had to come close to doubling Gentry's salary with the Clippers to convince him to leave a similar position with their Pacific Division rival, a source said. Gentry previously worked under Kerr, a former Phoenix Suns executive, in Phoenix and is the first addition to Kerr's staff.
--Marc J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports
Not a bad gig if you can get it. You get tons of money but don't have to talk to the media or take the blame if anything goes wrong.
For sure, Steve Kerr made a very smart hire as his wingman. He's never roamed a sideline. But he's got a great friend and colleague showing him how to do it.
No word yet, but it's not likely they bring back Lindsey Hunter to the staff. Hunter had joined Mark Jackson last summer after lasting only 41 games as the Suns coach.
If you're counting, that's Welts, Kerr and Gentry all landing Golden State within four years of being together in Phoenix.
Who's next on the Phoenix-to-Golden State bandwagon?
Kerr has already taken Suns staffer Nick U'ren with him to be a special assistant related to video work.
While most of the big-name folks from Kerr's regime have already moved on from Phoenix, a lot of the 'out of the spotlight' folks are still around. Don't be surprised if a few more names matriculate to Oakland.
I will be watching a couple of names though, to see if they are soon to roam the sideline with Kerr and Gentry.
David Griffin has since been elevated to GM in Cleveland, just in time to take his 3rd #1 overall pick in 4 years. Sounds great, right? Except that his former boss was just fired for drafting Anthony Bennett #1 last year, and this year he just witnessed the only real #1 candidate break his foot yesterday. If this pick doesn't work out, his franchise player might bolt in a year. Griffin might want to check his other options soon.
And then there's friend of BSotS Smin Elhassan. Kerr and Griffin helped shape Amin's career in the front office, only to leave Amin behind when they bolted. Amin landed on his feet with ESPN, but will he be asked to join Kerr and Friends in Golden State?
Does Amin even want the job, given that he he'd likely have to wear a tie every day and swear off twitter? Amin lives on twitter. That's like asking a guy to stop having sex for several years. You think "I can do it if the money's right" but that's before you've actually sworn off it. Amin would less of a man without twitter. He'd be 'min'. Don't do it, Amin! Don't drop the 'A'!
Oh, and by the way, I wonder how great those former Phoenicians will feel when they lose out on Kevin Love to the Suns in the next few weeks. Kinda bittersweet, I imagine.