With the dawn of a new era often comes a new head coach.
A team full of fresh faces searching to recapture its winning tradition usually transitions toward a new head honcho hoping to take the organization to the promise land.
But despite the fact that the Phoenix Suns welcome in seven new players as they turn the page to a new era of youth, Alvin Gentry should still be the man to steer the purple and orange ship, even after his contract expires after this season.
Yes, veterans Steve Nash and Grant Hill have come and gone, but Gentry should indeed stay put to guide Phoenix’s young core.
He’s the perfect blend of a veteran, battle-tested coach and the type of leader young players can relate to and develop under. His pedigree speaks for itself.
“He’s a very good coach. He knows that league so well,” said Duke associate head coach Chris Collins, who has known Gentry since he was a young boy growing up watching his father (Doug Collins) coach the Pistons. “Look at the coaches that he’s been under and worked with — my dad and Larry Brown and some of the greats in the league. Now he’s translated that into becoming one of the better coaches in his own right. I think he’s a terrific coach and hopefully he’ll be in Phoenix for a long time.”
It’s easy to forget that Gentry has coached under (or with) Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich, Doug Collins, and Mike D’Antoni during the Seven Seconds or Less era. There aren’t many coaches in the league who can say they’ve been around coaching greatness such as that.
Then there’s his ability to manage and develop players. Anyone who’s worked in the Phoenix media will tell you Gentry isn’t strictly an Xs and Os guy with no personality. He understands the people side of basketball.
“First of all he’s an outstanding coach, but what makes him really good is his ability to connect with people,” Collins said. “He’s one of those guys where people just gravitate toward him. You want to be around him. He’s got that distinct laugh where you know if he’s in the building from a mile away.”
He’s likable and easy to respect. He instills confidence yet knows when to be a disciplinarian. Those techniques will go a long way with a cast of players looking for a jolt of confidence to help them finally hit their stride in the NBA.
“To a player they love playing for him and they love his ability to be mad one night and come back the next morning and be himself and be in a good mood and keep the team on an even keel,” PBO Lon Babby said back in May. “He has tremendous people skills and communication skills.”
Look at what Gentry did to develop Goran Dragic. The once-fragile youngster came from Slovenia to the United States as an unknown point guard with little to no confidence. Soon enough, Gentry’s pupil was all but single-handedly eliminating the San Antonio Spurs with 23 fourth-quarter points.
Dragic and Gentry’s relationship alone is a major reason the Suns should keep the veteran head coach around for the future. Then there’s the endless possibilities that Gentry brings in terms of developing guys like Michael Beasley, Kendall Marshall, and Wesley Johnson, not to mention his continued development of Markieff Morris.
Gentry is a proven commodity, and although the Phoenix Suns are entering a new era, he’s one piece that should stay around.
- Steve Nash made an appearance on Jay Leno on Tuesday night. He didn’t talk in length about his time in Phoenix, but he did say this when asked about the fan reaction to his departure: “I have heard a mixed bag. Overwhelmingly supportive actually. A lot of people have been really thrilled for me to have a great opportunity and thankful for my eight years there, but there’s been some people that have been very angry.” You can catch part 1 and part 2 of the interview on NBC.com.
- The Suns have added veteran big man Solomon Jones to their training camp roster, according to Paul Coro. Jones is a 28-year-old 6-foot-10, 245-pound big who has played for four teams in six fairly unproductive seasons. He holds career numbers of 3.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks in 11.1 minutes per game.
- Part 3 of Goran Dragic’s Training Days series with The Noc is embedded below:
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