PHOENIX — No matter how many scrutinizing questions he faced otherwise at Tuesday’s press conference regarding his future, Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr kept hammering home the point that his June 30 departure from the front office is nothing more than a personal decision.
Reports stated earlier in the day that Kerr was asked by Suns managing partner Robert Sarver to take a 10 percent pay cut. Others said negotiations had fallen apart. Some believed that Kerr didn’t think he could do the job the right way with Sarver’s financial restrictions. But Kerr denied it all, reiterating that his leaving was about his career and his family and that the decision wasn’t easy.
“This has nothing to do with money or contracts or anything like that,” Kerr said in a press conference Tuesday in US Airways Center. “This is not a contract issue. This is a career and a personal decision.”
Original reports of Kerr’s decision not to return as GM for the 2010-11 season after three years in the role surfaced early Tuesday afternoon via 620 KTAR and The Arizona Republic. Conflicting rumors floated around the internet almost instantly, sparking intense speculation until Kerr took to the microphone beside Suns president and CEO Rick Welts at 4:30 p.m. MST.
Kerr had to repeat numerous times that his decision was not about money, but more about his family.
“My family is always more important than my job,” Kerr said. “This is a decision that I came to both professionally and personally, and I think it’s the right one.”
Kerr’s wife and three children live in San Diego, and Kerr often commuted between Phoenix and San Diego during the season.
Kerr’s contract expires at the end of June and the GM of three years expected to return when the Suns’ season ended in the Western Conference Finals. Kerr said his decision to leave was made since then. He will remain with the team through the end of June and said his role in the June 24 NBA Draft will not change from what it was last year.
“It’s always important to take a little down time after a season ends to let the emotion kind of simmer and make a clear-headed decision,” Kerr said. “I’ve got a couple opportunities ahead of me now that probably were not there a few weeks ago.”
While Kerr would not comment on the opportunities he may be in line for, he did say in a Suns press release earlier in the day that “a broadcasting opportunity would allow me to spend more time with my family, which is very important to me.” Kerr worked in the past as a game analyst for TNT.
Kerr emphasized that he would not be leaving the organization if he wasn’t pleased with where it stood following a 54-28 season.
Sarver could not attend the press conference due to a prior commitment, but did speak with The Republic earlier in the day.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a big surprise,” Sarver told The Republic of Kerr’s decision to leave. “Television is what he did before he came on board. It’s a change of plans from during the season. It boiled down to a number of things, including lifestyle and the opportunity. I was hoping to have him back.”
Kerr would have faced a challenging offseason that will include re-signing or replacing All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire and sharp-shooting center Channing Frye.
Kerr’s departure is likely to play a major role in Stoudemire’s decision of whether or not to stay in Phoenix. Stoudemire’s agent spoke with Yahoo! Sports earlier Tuesday.
“Aside from the money, obviously an important factor for where Amar’e will sign is the direction of the organization, and Steve leaving signals a new direction for the Suns,” Walters told the site. “We need to see what that direction is. Amar’e has a great deal of respect for Steve, and so do I. Steve and [coach] Alvin Gentry made a great team there and now a big part of that team is gone.”
Kerr said at the press conference that he and Sarver had been seeing eye to eye on the negotiations over Stoudemire’s contract, but declined to go into any detail. He said that he would continue to work with the front office in negotiations until he leaves.
“Given that I’m leaving after June 30th, I’m not going to be offering any free agent deals,” Kerr said.
Kerr said that he had spoken with Stoudemire and Grant Hill Tuesday but had been unable to reach Steve Nash, who is in South Africa for the World Cup. He said contact with players would continue over the next few days.
As for his close relationship with Gentry, Kerr said that it only made him more comfortable with his decision to leave.
“The partnership we’ve had the last year and a half has been really special,” Kerr said. “Whoever is sitting in my seat going forward will inherit a wonderful person and a great coach.”
Welts said that the process of replacing Kerr would include internal and external candidates, but kept the focus on celebrating Kerr’s tenure with the team in which the Suns averaged nearly 52 wins per season and went 155-91.
“There can’t be anybody more respected or better liked anywhere in the NBA than Steve Kerr,” Welts said. “It’s been a privilege to work with him.”