The NBA is a player’s league, and thus coaches often receive more credit than they deserve when they win and more blame than they should shoulder when they lose.
Such was Alvin Gentry’s fate when he led a 13-28 roster to a 13-28 record.
Gentry was the same coach at the helm of a Western Conference Finals berth, yet because he was relying on Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown to play key roles rather than Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson, the Suns decided to mutually part ways with him midway through the season.
I don’t feel Gentry did anything to “deserve” this per se, but it’s just what happens in pro sports, and I’m sure Gentry will be the first person to tell you that. Unless you’re Jerry Sloan in Utah, coaches are hired to be fired, and with Gentry being a lame duck coach and with a new front office and a new direction on the court, it only seemed like a matter of when Gentry would be gone, not if.
Red Auerbach himself could not have coaxed a playoff berth out of this current Phoenix Suns squad, and as the losses piled up Gentry continued to implore his team to keep playing hard while talking about how the Suns just needed a winning streak to get back in the playoff race when everyone knew he was only saying it for the sake of maintaining hope.
In the end, Gentry should most be remembered for being a player’s coach and an exceptional people person. He always seemed to have the right message for a player when he needed it most, and he always chose to communicate rather than let an issue fester. His presence lights up a room, and he’s got the kind of engaging personality that makes people just want to be around him, mmm-kay?
He often tried to fit his system to best utilize his personnel rather than coaching the Suns with any kind of style that could be called his own. It was always about others rather than himself as he was practically an ego-less head coach.
Gentry’s best work as the Suns’ leader undoubtedly came during that magical 2009-10 run in which he seemed to push all the right buttons. He was given a team headlined by studs like Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson and cultivated a frenetic defensive bench unit that oftentimes was better than the mighty starters.
He played the bench longer stints when those players were going well, and created a true “team” environment that led the Suns to a “better than the sum of their parts” kind of campaign. He even survived a bad fried artichoke that season.
Gentry wasn’t without his faults, particularly in how he managed inferior bench units in recent years, but at the end of the day the Suns’ issues stem from lack of talent on the roster rather than anything Gentry did.
NBA coaches run their course, and although I feel Gentry is a quality one who did not exactly deserve to mutually part ways, it’s understandable that the front office feels that now is the time to switch things up.
Tags: Alvin Gentry