Alvin Gentry should be remembered for 2010 run, superior communication skills

Posted by on January 19th, 2:11 am

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.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube 

Tags: Alvin Gentry · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 bill.thomas // Jan 19, 2013 at 2:23 am

    Red Auerbach himself could not have coaxed 34 wins out of this polyglot.

  • 2 Gary Boersma // Jan 19, 2013 at 3:42 am

    I really enjoyed him as I follow the Suns for the
    past 7 years. Will miss him greatly
    Gary Boersma Payson Arizona

  • 3 Luka // Jan 19, 2013 at 6:57 am

    It was pretty sad listening to Gentry’s farewell on KTAR yestetday. I still think the 2010 Suns were the best team we had in the Nash and Amare era. That team had perfect chemistry. Kerr and Gentry had great chemistry. I was exceptionally pissed when Sarver decided to let that fade away. Gentry was simply dealt a bad hand with the declining talent level.

  • 4 Troy // Jan 19, 2013 at 7:34 am

    It wasn’t an avocado. It was an artichoke. :)

  • 5 Scott // Jan 19, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Bottom line: Gentry was probably on his way out anyway due to the change from Kerr to Blanks. It’s well known that new GMs prefer to pick their own coach.

    Additionally, judging from the statements given by Babby, Blanks probably wanted to fire Gentry to give the impression he’s moving the team forward, not backward. The players selected by Blanks didn’t give that impression by themselves, so firing the coach was a way to show that Blanks is moving the team onward.

    My opinion is that if Sarver really wants to move the team forward, instead of just pretending to do so, he needs to fire Blanks. Building a winning NBA team isn’t that difficult (players are heavily scouted these days, with significant amounts of data available to the public online). Communicating with the press isn’t that difficult. Sarver ought to be able to find someone who can do both better than Blanks.

    If Sarver didn’t already have such a bad track record picking people to run the team, and such a black eye with the press, I’d say he could do a better job than Blanks himself.

  • 6 Luka // Jan 19, 2013 at 8:11 am

    @Scott

    Blanks and Treloar need to be let go immediately. They’ve screwed up the draft two years running and can’t be trusted to draft this upcoming summer.

  • 7 cuttino // Jan 19, 2013 at 8:34 am

    With the benefit of hindsight, the only 3 players the Suns should have taken instead of Morris in the 2011 draft were Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert or Kenneth Faried.

    None of those players were sure things, so I’d hardly call 2011 a screwed up draft.

  • 8 Scott // Jan 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

    @Luka -

    As regards Treloar, it’s hard for me to pin blame on him. I realize people are dissatisfied with the draft picks the Suns have made … and it may be due to inferior scouting … but it also may not.

    My understanding of the process is that the scouts report their findings to the GM and help the GM make a prioritized list of players. However, who the GM actually picks is up to the GM.

    My view is that you have to replace the GM first. A new GM can look at what Treloar is providing and replace him if it seems the scouting is truly poor. Likewise, a new GM should evaluate player development to see if procedures or personnel need to be changed there, to make sure the draft picks are developing according to plan.

    So … I don’t think Treloar is responsible for making bad draft picks. I think the GM is, and Blanks picked Marshall and Morris at least partially due to weakness in his selection of free agents and acquisitions through trade.

    The Suns picked up Morris because he was the highest ranked power forward who fit the “spread the court” profile the Suns were looking for. He could shoot from outside and defend the perimeter. Unfortunately, Morris hasn’t been used that way, and I would assume that’s because either his 3 pt shot hasn’t been that accurate, or because the Suns have the wrong mix of players and a poor distributor (Telfair), so Morris doesn’t get those shots. IIRC, mostly I see Morris defending inside and trying to get his shots closer to the basket.

    If you think that wasn’t the best use of a draft pick, and that the Suns maybe should have looked to take the best player available, and then picked up a PF who could spread the floor from free agency or trade … well, that’s the GM’s decision, not scouting.

    The Suns picked Marshall because they had been delinquent for years in obtaining both a good backup PG, and a decent 3rd string PG. The closest they got in recent years was under Kerr when they had Nash, a lightly seasoned Dragic, and Barbosa as a 3rd string PG / combo guard. That group was the one that tore up the Spurs in the playoffs.

    Other than that brief period, they didn’t have a good PG backup before Dragic had some experience, and once he had the experience, they got rid of Barbosa, and didn’t replace him. Then they got rid of Dragic, and so on.

    So the Suns drafted Marshall, with the prospect of starting Telfair, bringing Marshall off the bench, and using Garrett as the 3rd PG / SG. It looks like this was the plan Blanks had in mind.

    Judging from press reports, Sarver and maybe Babby interfered by pushing to get Dragic signed in addition. Sarver also apparently interfered by signing Scola, where Blanks was apparently planning on using Beasley as the starting PF.

    So if you want to see the team that Blanks built, envision the Suns without Dragic and Scola.

    IMO, if Sarver felt he needed to get involved to sign Dragic and Scola, because he lacked confidence in the admittedly weak team Blanks was constructing, he should finish the job by getting rid of Blanks.

  • 9 Scott // Jan 19, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Just for clarity, let me define the team that I think Blanks was building. It got altered by Sarver’s imposition of Dragic and Scola, followed by the impositions of Tucker and O’Neal, Frye’s injury, and then by Gentry playing who he thought was best.

    The All-Blanks Squad

    Starters: Telfair, Gordon (Brown), Dudley, Beasley, Gortat

    2nd unit: Marshall, Garrett, Johnson, Morris, Frye

    Bench: Tucker, Zeller

    In all fairness to Blanks, we never saw what he built get onto the court.

  • 10 sunsfaninla // Jan 19, 2013 at 9:51 am

    We should have kept amare

  • 11 Zack B. // Jan 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Sad to see him go, great guy. But whoever we get, I just hope he specializes in development of players. I still want Rudy but I think there’s still a chance for Beasley to become what we paid him for…he’s very young. Same goes for Wes, Kendall, SB. Even though SB is producing at a pretty good rate. Van Gundy would be nice for Gortat, but I’m not so sure. Wouldn’t mind him though.

  • 12 DBreezy // Jan 19, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Not to worry folks, the organization feels our pain and the disconnect and getting to work on it right away by doing community outreach and sending PJ Tucker out to sign autographs at the Room Store on 59th Ave and Bell from 1-2 this afternoon…

  • 13 DBreezy // Jan 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

    @Scott,

    As far as scouting and picks go, I do think Treloar isn’t the final authority as you say, but he does have to take a good portion of any blame there imo. The reason I say this is not just because of his position, but because of how many of the Suns long time scouts were cleaned out before or shortly after his arrival. Quinter was the last guy to go. I’m not saying it’s Treloar’s fault that they were moved out, but once they were he was the only guy standing in the room besides Blanks. Thing is unless you’re crazy hoops junkies list most of are here, reading stuff nearly every day about the team, you don’t even notice the numerous departures of people who aren’t necessarily high visibility to fans.

  • 14 bk // Jan 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    The biggest mistake this offseason was trade Johnson and Grizzle pick for Lopez. Lopez is cheaper and younger than Gortat. It is better to keep as a trade chip (or trade Gortat) or development. Lopez wants start, you can bench Gortat or start Gortat at 4 at some games. We all knew it wasn’t a winning season and the top priority is to develop young players and accumulate assets. The one said Johnson coming was “make player better” myth but the myth was with Nash effect and proven in the Dragic effect at all.

  • 15 JD // Jan 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    In 2011, as soon as I saw Kawhi Leonard dropped to the Suns, I figured if they knew what they were doing, they would draft him. Did they think Grant Hill would play 10 more years? Did they think Dudley was a better defender and open court player? They also had Carter, Pietrus, Childress, and Warrick for wing players and I hope they weren’t counting on them as long term solutions. If they did, then they were mistaken. But they were locked in on Morris and did not think outside the box.

    In 2012, once I saw Jared Sullinger dropped to the Suns, I thought they should have drafted him. As far as Marshall, did they even watch him play against NBA level talent? For that matter, have they recently watched him play against D-League talent? Are we to believe that drafting Marshall at #13 was justified? No matter how you look at it, the 2012 draft was a bust for the Suns.

    Blanks is in charge of building the team. He must go before he makes even more draft mistakes for the Suns.

  • 16 Bill-in-Tokyo // Jan 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I keep thinking when I read about the Suns player decisions or this decision that they are playing a game of “money ball”. Win cheap enough to fill the stands. At this stage, the season is already lost. Fans need evidence (a victim, blood, sacrificial lamb) that the Suns FO cares. Cheap decision: Fire coach (still pay salary) but money-ball cool is upgrade assistant at same pay. At no additional cost, you will continue to still lose but cheaply appease the Fans. Additional upside is now you can tank. Pick cheap “potential” super star(s) in draft and perhaps find another cheap putative “go-to-player” free agent. This approach explains Scola, putative Beasley, and Johnson, etc. This money ball approach would also explain Blanks ridiculous rationale that the situation didn’t “feel good” as the basis for Gentry’s firing.

  • 17 Geminid670 // Jan 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Rock. Bottom.

  • 18 Geminid670 // Jan 19, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Okay Elston, here’s your chance to fullfill what the Suns hired you for. Good luck!

  • 19 Scott // Jan 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I was calling for Kawhi and Jared as well, but I knew it couldn’t work for the Suns as they just weren’t getting what they needed in free agency.

    IMO, you draft for talent, and you fill roster spots with free agency.

    If the Suns don’t draft for talent – or get lucky in trade – I don’t know how they get out of this mess.

  • 20 DBreezy // Jan 19, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Mike Monroe tweeting that Lindsey Hunter is getting the job, not Turner. Should be interesting since the players wanted Majerle (who wasn’t really considered) and he’ll have a staff of people who are dead men walking working for a guy with no coaching experience.

  • 21 Sillmarillion // Jan 20, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Robin Lopez had 2 points and 0 rebounds in the game vs GSW. I think it was a good move to trade him and I still don’t understand how PER ranks him 11th best center in the league…

  • 22 Michael Schwartz: SMBA '14 Student of the Week // Mar 18, 2013 at 8:20 am

    [...] a step back. I’ve actually written just two articles, one the night I arrived in San Diego when Alvin Gentry was fired and another at the trade deadline when the Suns acquired Marcus Morris. I’m sure I will pen a [...]

Leave a Comment