Elston Turner has been a hot head coaching candidate the past three years, interviewing with at least four teams during that time, including the Suns in 2008 when they eventually hired Terry Porter.
Yet Turner has remained a hot potential coaching candidate as each organization ultimately decided to go in another direction.
He’s still not a head coach, but Turner will embark on a new challenge next season as he will be hired to be the Suns’ de facto defensive coordinator, a position that has not been formally held by any coach in recent years. The Suns will not need to make a corresponding coaching move as they never filled Alvin Gentry’s open assistant position when he was promoted to the head job.
Turner, who will receive a two-year deal, figures to be a good fit being that he brings a defensive mind-set along with the experience of coaching offensive-oriented teams. He has spent the past 10 seasons with Rick Adelman (the last four in Houston and the previous six in Sacramento) after working as a Portland assistant for four years.
According to The Arizona Republic:
Turner will be charged with evaluating game tape and the roster and deciphering what strategies will work best for the Suns defense. He also will be in charge of the Suns’ defensive portions of practice. Each one will now have a committed 40-minute defensive session to improve on last season’s 26th-ranked defensive field goal percentage. Turner is being hired now, despite the lockout, to begin planning with Gentry on next season.
The Suns have liked Turner for some time now having interviewed him twice three years ago before settling on Porter.
It’s good to know that the team will be focusing more on defense in practices after Gentry and Lon Babby described that area as such a priority heading into next year. Also, while it’s too bad Turner won’t be able to speak with player about his schemes due to the lockout, at least he will be able to spend all summer with Gentry so they can develop a better defensive plan heading into next year.
Under Turner’s tutelage, Houston has ranked 18th, 17th, fourth and second (behind only Boston during their championship season) in defensive efficiency the past four seasons.
Obviously it will take much more than a coaching hire and a more intense commitment to defense for the Suns to vastly improve a unit that ranked 25th in defensive efficiency.
However, they have ranked between 16th and 20th in defensive efficiency during their five playoff seasons with, so it’s not like this squad needs to channel Russell’s Celtics on the defensive end to be competitive, they just can’t be worse than mediocre.
Overall it will be nice to get a fresh set of eyes in the organization and a new voice to teach how to limit dribble penetration to a Suns squad that understands it can’t just overwhelm teams with offensive firepower anymore like it did during the D’Antoni days.