It was one thing to ask Steve Kerr to take a pay cut, but for Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver to pick up Alvin Gentry’s 2011-12 team option is a slap in the face to the man who orchestrated the chemistry-laden team that was two wins short of the NBA Finals.
The 2009-10 Suns started and ended with Gentry, and to exercise his $2.15 million option for 2011-12, keeping him among the league’s lowest-paid head coaches for the next two years, is downright pathetic.
Gentry proved to be one of the NBA’s top coaches last season and he deserves to be paid like one. But instead Gentry will be making well below the league average for a coach, which was $3.4 million last season, this year (when he earns $1.95 million) and next.
It is mind boggling that Sarver wouldn’t fairly compensate the man that saved him millions of dollars by returning the Suns to relevancy after the mess that Terry Porter left.
Gentry did it all last season, from instilling confidence in youngsters like Goran Dragic, to relating to the Steve Nashs and Grant Hills of the club.
And the simple fact that he was able to gain the respect of Amare Stoudemire and keep any tension from reaching the locker room speaks volumes about his ability to relate to his players. He is truly the perfect fit for this group.
Not one person in the organization will say anything bad about Gentry, from the interns to the owner, and that likability trickled down through his team and it showed on the court.
He made every player feel like he could go off for 40 points on any given night, which was a huge reason for career years from Dragic, Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Lou Amundson.
He developed the bench, he kept the starters happy and most importantly he kept the team loose. He gave them an identity that they lacked the season before and it paid dividends on the hardwood.
Nobody gave this team a chance, yet in his first full season as Suns head coach Gentry led the team to a 54-win season and one of the most memorable playoff runs in recent history. The simple feat of coaching a long-overdue series victory over the Spurs should have earned Gentry a new contract.
It’s easy to say that Gentry only succeeded because he fell into a situation with a ton of talent, but just think about where this team was when he took over. Porter tore apart every in and out of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns and most had the feeling that it would be a long time before Phoenix would return to relevancy.
But Gentry picked up the pieces as quickly as possible and brought the Suns back to their run-n-gun style of play with a tad of defense mixed in. Yet Gentry will still be taking less money from Sarver’s wallet than the no-longer employed Porter ($2.5 million) next season.
Yes, a man who finished fifth in the NBA in Coach of the Year voting and led his team to the NBA’s fifth-best record is making less money next season than the sorry, excuse-of-a coach who almost set the franchise back for multiple seasons. It’s mind boggling.
No, coaches don’t make the same big bucks as the players, but they can often be more integral to the team’s success (as Porter proved), and Sarver obviously failed to realize this. Gentry certainly isn’t going to disrupt team chemistry by complaining about his deal (a la Amare), but he has a right to be upset.
Heading into the offseason he was the one guy — coach or player — who deserved a new deal more than anyone else. But, yet again, Sarver chose penny pinching over fairly compensating probably the biggest reason for the team’s 2009-10 success.
It isn’t surprising from Sarver, but it’s still a disgrace. Gentry has proven to be one of the NBA’s best coaches, while being the perfect fit in Phoenix, and he deserves to be rewarded for it.
The Suns did announce that assistants Dan Majerle, Bill Cartwright and Igor Kokoskov will be getting new deals to keep them under contract through 2011-12, but Sarver forgot to pay the brains of the operation, which shouldn’t sit well with Gentry and his players.