Lindsey Hunter hopes to establish an identity, become more 'defensive-minded'

PHOENIX — After sleeping only five hours Sunday night, interim head coach Lindsey Hunter admitted that the reality of his somewhat surprising promotion still had not sunk in.

While Phoenix’s practice facility was buzzing with energy Monday nearly 24 hours after the 17-year NBA veteran was named the team’s short-term replacement for Alvin Gentry, when the reality finally does set in for Hunter, odds are he’ll come to terms with the fact that five hours of pillow time might be on the high side for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

Although he’s only been with the organization since 2012, the first-time head coach appears to grasp the severity of the situation around him, and that he inherits a team bordering on disarray.

Often times teams take on the attitude of their coach, and if Hunter has his way, the current cellar dwellers of the Western Conference (13-28) will hit the ground running and embrace the traits that once made him a successful player.

“Of course, I want us to be a hard-nosed, defensive-minded team,” Hunter said. “That’s what I want. And that’s what we are going to work towards being.”

That sentiment might fall on deaf ears at this point, after all it’s the same one which has been thrown around aimlessly over the last few seasons.

Hunter recognizes that such a culture shift won’t occur over night — after all the Suns enter Wednesday night’s game at Sacramento as the fifth-least efficient team defensively in the league (104.9 points per possession) and dead last in opponent three-point percentage (38.9 percent) — but the 42-year-old believes the coaching move signals a need to make notable changes.

“Personality-wise, I think we need to find an identity,” said Hunter. “That’s what this whole search is. We’re trying to establish that now with a work ethic. Once we get an identity, then I think you’ll start to see things happen.”

With 41 games to go and a mixed bag of parts dressed up as an NBA roster, you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Hunter can generate such results overnight.

He, however, doesn’t agree that such a transformation requires star power.

“I think establishing an identity doesn’t have anything to do with superstars or things like that,” said Hunter. “It has to do with culture, the kind of character you bring in and the type of leaders that you have.”

Leaders might be hard to find in Phoenix’s current locker room, and arguably the only voice left that garners any level of credence is that of fifth-year forward Jared Dudley.

While Dudley revealed that Hunter was more of a player ally than a teacher in his role as the development coordinator, he suggested that the two-time NBA champion has a vision of what he wants the team’s identity to be and hasn’t shied away from trying to change bad habits right away.

“In terms of on-ball defense, he says we are playing too soft in a sense of not touching it,” said Dudley. “On pick-and-rolls, he says we’re not being aggressive enough. ”

Over his final seven seasons in the league, Hunter never averaged more than 5.0 points per game, but Dudley said his new coach’s knowledge at the defensive ends lends itself to instant credibility.

“I remember watching him, and he was one of the best on-ball defenders,” said Dudley. “That’s probably what allowed him to play in the league for so many years, when maybe he wasn’t that good offensively.

“I mean he was a point guard that played 17 years in the NBA, so he must be doing something right. It would be like Kurt Thomas or Grant Hill being the coach. So for not having that coaching experience, I think being a player makes up for that.”

Youth Movement

While starting point guard Goran Dragic realizes that neither he (14.0 points and 6.1 assists per game) nor his team (15 games below .500) are playing at the level he expected when he signed a four-year deal back in July, it’s rather apparent that no player has more job security on the roster than the 26-year-old.

Although the team drafted Kendall Marshall with the 13th overall pick in last June’s draft, back-up Sebastian Telfair (6.3 points and 2.6 assists per game) played well in stretches throughout the first half of the season and Diante Garrett made the roster coming out of camp, Dragic’s long-term contract worth $30 million combined with his projected ceiling makes it unlikely he’ll be unseated any time soon.

Oddly enough, that bothers him to some extent.

“I want all my teammates, especially the younger ones, to develop as much as possible,” Dragic said. “If they develop more, they’re going to be able to help us more, and we will be better than we are right now.”

When asked specifically about increased playing time and even practice opportunities for the likes of Marshall (21), Markieff Morris (23), Wesley Johnson (25) and Luke Zeller (25), Dragic said he wasn’t opposed to the idea moving forward this season.

“If they get more time and develop, then our practices are harder and more challenging,” said Dragic. “It also means that for guys like me, we don’t know what could happen and who could start instead of us. And, I think that’s a good thing. Having a group of hungry guys creates better competition and better competition pushes [the starters] to protect their spots.”

Assistant Coaches Watch

Day 2 came and went inside the US Airways Center, and still no sign of assistant coaches Dan Majerle and Elston Turner, who were both passed over by Lon Babby and Lance Blanks for the interim head coaching position.

Majerle, who played eight seasons with the organization and had his number retired in the “Ring of Honor” back in 2003, has every reason to be upset. After all, he has served as an assistant with the team since 2008 and has been as loyal as they come dating back to his days as a player and even a broadcaster.

While Turner doesn’t have as lengthy of a connection with the Suns as Majerle does, his résumé speaks of a man with nearly 16 years of experience as an NBA assistant coach, who like Hunter, made his living in the NBA (eight seasons) at the defensive end.

When pressed with questions regarding the future of both as it pertained to his staff, Hunter reiterated that the situation would eventually play itself out. However, he did take time to acknowledge that the organization’s decision could not have been easy for either Majerle or Turner.

“I’m sure being a coach and wanting to be a head coach and not getting an opportunity hurts,” said Hunter. “And I understand that and am compassionate about that part of it. I don’t know what will come from any of this, but you wish the guys that are not with us the best and the guys that are with us, we’re going to work.”




  • bill.thomas

    What does Tony REALLY think ?? No one knows, he beats around the damned bushes so damned much !!!!

  • bill.thomas

    @the Barnes: Beasley & Marshall WILL lead us to the Promised land !!!!!

  • bill.thomas

    I bet JIMMY CARTER (jimmy Crack Corn) will even come along to the Promised Land !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill.thomas

    Jimmy Crack Corn !!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill.thomas

    I’m gonna back up the truck and buy a boatload of IHOP stock !!!!!!!!

  • bill.thomas

    On what can Sarver count to a higher level, sheep, or empty seats? (Hint: At least sheep give wool).

  • Lindsey Hunter

    Man up Tony….. you sound like a bully just took your popsicle

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    The best thing the FO could do to Majerle was NOT give him the job. This head coach job stint with our current squad and situation will only stain a man’s resume.

  • azbballfan

    I think Blanks, if that was him, has alot of guts to come on a web site that does not like him

    I am interested to see what kind of plan Babby, Sarver, and Blanks all unveil at the town hall meetings

    cause i can tell you right now, getting rid of a respected coach, and two assistant coaches plus alienating the media and the fans.

    MAN you better have a great plan!


    mr bill is drinking and driving on our comment board..time to go watch a glacier melt or maybe watch some one do some engraving

  • TheBarnes

    Tony was spot on with his reply. I can’t believe someone anyone would think we were loyal to Nash when he wanted to stay. Saying we could of let him fend for himself is ridiculous, as tony points out we got picks out of it but even worse with that comment do you think of we let him fend for himself he would’ve thought twice? Seriously. Dude was offered a mega 3 yr deal from Toronto, and others Paul’s of also, I’m sure he could of been just fine “fending for himself”. Nash gave his life to the suns and never complained or asked to jump ship and he actually wants to stay and we pay more money to bring in Beasley/Wes/Brown than to simply keep Nash like he wanted anyway. And how about that lowball offer Phoenix head office? What was that like a 1 yr 6 million offer to the assist leader in the NBA? What a joke.

  • Dan Majerle

    Hey guys, drinks are on me at Majerle’s tonight. I’ve got the dart board up with Robert Sarver as the target. See ya there!

  • john

    @thebarnes and @mimilliman

    You guys should check your facts. Ignorance is out of style.

  • Michael

    Tony is wrong as much as one can be wrong again.
    You´ll never get a quote from any FO that tanking is the route we are walking for the next years, they have to state those “staying competitive while rebuilding things”.

    We are at the beginning of rebuilding, we will not see good results in the near future, but the Suns will come back one day, and the FO surely has a plan for the future. They have failed in the past seasons with certain decisions, they have done good with others. Some franchises have to lose, it´s a competition. But overall the Suns are a winning franchise, and we´ll get back to that.
    In Tony´s world, everything is so easy, but in reality, it´s not. And I´m sure the FO is working hard to get the Suns better. But it´ll take time.
    OKC has been awfully bad for a long time until they had all their assets to rock the show. We have been mediocre for two seasons now and are bad for half a season. It will take time. Just be a little more patient.

    But when you look at the player contracts, this is an area where the FO has done really good work already. Now it´s time to move on with doing smart trades and picking wisely within the next two drafts.

    Interestingly Steve has been very thankful that our hated FO worked out the Lala deal. A win-win for both, so I don´t see this deal as a proof of their disloyalty. A lot of the undone rebuilding results from the fact that they tried hard to give Steve a reasonably competitive team to play with instead of changing things dramatically after the 2010 finals.
    Steve has never blamed them, so I won´t do that.

    I´m also amused about the talking that Dragic is too old for a rebuilding team. Steve is 12 years older than him, and he got his first MVP at the age of 31. I don´t want to compare their style of play, their impact on the team or their talent (Steve is unique), but I don´t see why a 26 year old guard has to be considered “old, past the ideal of rebuliding around.”
    I´d say the complete opposite is true, you need at least one or two players in the middle ages where the youngstars can learn from in any aspect on AND off the court. Goran and JD are important pieces for a rebuilding process that I wouldn´t trade away (I would even call Channing an important player in this meaning).
    They´ll get the team younger within the next year, don´t worry.

  • Cam

    Just because you disagree doesn’t mean you should stoop to name calling and verbal insults. I appreciate your comments in general but making statement like the one above paint you not as an adult, but as a child. We shouldn’t have to revert to such insults to get a point across. The beauty of this site is that many of us have our own opinions and views pertaining to the Suns. This should be a forum to share, without the fear of ridicule. Now I’m off my soapbox.

    Has anyone seen the rumour that the cavs are making a trade with the Griz. Spieghts, Ellington, Selby, and a 1st for Jon Leuer. Really! This FO couldn’t find a way to jump in a get that from the Griz. They were already in contact about Rudy Gay. Obtaining Speights would give the FO the freedom to shop Gortat without having to brain a C back in the trade. Selby alongside Dragon in the backcourt would’ve been fun to watch if nothing else. And then the Cavs also get a late round 1st. This is nuts. Once again the FO stumbles out of the block and misses an opportunity. Go Suns.

  • Cam

    Throw Zeller and Garrett to the Griz. I just looked and it works in the trade machine. Dammit! Go Suns.

  • DBreezy

    While I agree with Michael that you cannot come out and say you’re tanking, but my gut says Tony is right when he says that winning each individual game at all costs will remain the goal here vs development. Listening to Babby talk about how they parted with Alvin because they needed to preserve their culture right after Alvin said it was time to play the young guys and Blanks outline of what he expects from Hunter lean towards that notion IMO.

    We shall see, but beyond the first few games where I do expect to see some experimentation, I’m not sure we’ll see drastic rotation shifts especially if they’re not as competitve as they were previously. Hunter didn’t even act like he expected rotation changes when asked about it. The team tanked the 2003-2004 season ahead of Sarver taking over. They didn’t announce that that was what they were doing, but it was clear. They were extra cautious bringing guys back from injuries and D’Antoni sat vets like Eisley, White and sometimes McDyess in favor of youth. Btw Michael to be fair the Suns have had 3 out of the last five seasons as mediocre, one great one sandwiched in there and this bad one.

  • DBreezy

    Hunter under FBI investigation for mortgage fraud? The Suns are nothing if not interesting, and Lance and Lon better hope it’s not true after this transition debacle.

  • JD

    So the Suns GM has finally got his coach, a former long time NBA point guard with a defensive coaching mindset, looking to change the culture of the team.

    Let’s see how Coach Porter does in his first Suns game at the helm tomorrow night!

  • Ty-Sun

    Memphis made that trade simply to shed salary to get out of paying the luxury tax. I think that they specifically pitched this deal to Cleveland because they knew that they need another big man since Varejao is going to miss the rest of this season. I doubt the Suns ever knew such a deal with Memphis was possible.

    As for the Suns already being in contact with Memphis about Rudy Gay, so was every other team in the NBA. Memphis was actively shopping Gay around the Association to any and every team that would take their calls. Phoenix didn’t have any edge over anyone else in that respect.

  • Forever is2long

    Opinions are everywhere today about the direction of the Suns and Majerle leaving. Like Kerr not wanting to be associated with the team after Sarver reportedly hinted at a reduced salary for him and had decided not to sign Amare after the team performed so well in the 2nd half of the season and in the playoffs, Thunder Dan felt slighted with the coaching change that did not include him. I don’t know if Dan or Lindsey can coach but I do not blame Dan for leaving a franchise that has a recent history for poor draft choices, letting good players go, trading draft choices with little in return and signing a number of journeyman free agents. Good move Dan and good luck to you.

    As for the team’s direction, I said last summer if you are rebuilding why are you keeping near 30 Gortat and signing Scola. IMO it was clear their primary focus was trying to be playoff relevant. When that goal failed miserably as I knew it would, now the focus is developing players with a not so young squad (i agree Scott). Maybe Gentry is not the guy for that as I previously mentioned some former and present Suns have played better elsewhere (Dragic, Lopez, Clark). If this was the focus last summer which I think it should have been, they should have taken a page out of New Orleans playbook when they let Kaman walk and they signed a younger and cheaper Lopez. I am not surprised New Orleans has a better record than the Suns because they were never obsessed with becoming playoff relevant once Chris Paul left.Hornets just have a smarter front office than the Suns in my opinion.

    I think Rich posed the question what do we want from this point forward.I think the obvious answer is an excellent draft. However to improve the chances of a good draft I would have fired Babby and Blanks with Gentry. Now that would be a rebuild. In my opinion there is a difference between transition and rebuild. I think the evidence shows the Suns were trying to transition and when it failed now want to call it rebuilding. Some fans are buying that but I am not one of them.

  • john

    I also don’t blame Majerle for leaving, but I don’t expect him to end up being a great head coach either. I think both parties did what they needed to do in this instance.

    As far as assuming the Suns were trying to be playoff relevant because they kept Gortat and signed Scola? Who were they going to develop at the C spot if they didn’t keep Gortat (who is turning 29 next month)? Robin Lopez? Talent-wise, I think it’s virtually a wash between those two players, and Lopez would have tied up the cap for more years. Gortat is off the books at the end of next season. I can see why keeping Gortat was desirable over signing Lopez. And who were the Suns going to develop at the 4? Does anyone really think Markieff Morris is ready for 35 minutes a game in the Association?

    I agree that there are ways where the “rebuilding” plan seems muddled and/or nonexistent, but I still don’t see better options presented by virtually anyone complaining.

  • Cam

    There have been options presented. The problem is, most of these options rely on trades. These trades are really just pipe dreams because none of us are in the FO. The only other real option the Suns have is play it out and work through the draft. Until the FO makes some trades to provide clarity to the fans as to the direction management is taking we can only assume that Sarver and the boys plan on sticking with what they have and slowly building through picks and free agency. Go Suns.

  • Cam

    I agree with the team keeping Gortat over Fropez, precisely for the reasons John posted above. Contract length and cap space are becoming a premium. Gortat was the better choice. Go Suns.

  • Harry

    Anyone notice in the video Hunter doesn’t establish any eye contact when talking?

  • Forever is2long

    John, Absolutely I would have preferred Lopez at $5m/yr as he has not reached his prime. He woulod have done 1 three year deal with the Suns as that is what he got in New Orleans (actually NO has an option to renew at the end of each season). As for power forward, I wanted the Suns to draft J. Henson from North Carolina as I agree with you Morris IMO is not an NBA starting power forward.

  • m.i.milliman


    I did say I think. And what facts did I reference? None far as I can tell. Just making a point, the front office has no idea what they are doing and they have no plan. They’re just blowing smoke at this point.

    And your right, ignorance is out. Way to go man. Pretty cool man. I’m proud of you.

  • the barnes

    @john they had absolutely no idea, what they are doing is not rebuilding. The Gortat argument is fine to a degree except for the fact that if they decided pre-season they were rebuilding the smart option would have been shop him – everyone knew after playing with nash his value would not be higher. And now its significantly lower. But even giving you gortat the Scola signing is completely indefensible. Do I really think Markieff Morris is ready for 35 minutes a night as a starter? I dunno, but we are never going to find out unless you throw him out there!!! That is what rebuilding teams do, they don’t care about the Ws as much as seeing what they have in young prospects and developing them, and the best way to develop young guys is to give them plenty of NBA experience so they can learn. Scola is the antithesis of rebuilding. I would also suggest that they could have drafted someone like John Henson instead of Marshall to help their young big man stocks – I think everyone knew Marshall didn’t have much of a ceiling and young bigs are more valuable. Of course I could also sight the Jermaine Oneal signing to, what was that going to achieve? And you cant say that hes a veteran with an great attitude who doesnt care about playing time and will teach the young guys….he is the absolute OPPOSITE to all of that. Then you trade for someone like Wes Johnson who I don’t disagree with, but then you don’t play him? And actually make his trade stock go DOWN and not know what you have there talent wise? The suns have not known what they are doing this ENTIRE TIME. If you are rebuilding you stock up on young prospects and YOU PLAY THEM so you can develop them and you don’t sign over the hill old guys that demand playing time and fit a contender – Jermaine oneal/scola. You also trade pieces that don’t fit for rebuilding purposes – GORATT!! When their value is high. The suns are not a rebuilding team and they are not a playoff team, and they are not even in the middle and don’t have great assets. They are in real trouble especially if sarver doesnt want to get out his chequebook. I don’t blame Gentry for all of this as to me from the outside looking in its clear he ahd a impossible task – make sure you win games but we want to rebuild to! Sure thats gonna be easy.

  • john

    How many of these posts are simply by the same person?

  • the barnes

    I can assure you I am only posting under myself and noone else. Michael Beasley, Lance, Marshall etc….well, pretty sure thats the same person!

  • john

    Btw, the “facts” I was talking about were milliman’s reference to the Suns getting the Miami pick and Barnes’ reference to Rudy Gay being a star (this one is admittedly more subjective, but there isn’t much a statistical argument to be made for Gay’s “star” qualities). Sure, milliman said “I think,” but why not spend 30 seconds on Google to get informed and not waste my precious Internet time. :)

  • the barnes

    Gay is a above average NBA player who is exciting to watch, draws fans, and is an allstar. To me that qualifies as a ‘star’. The level of star is subjective, but clearly the facts indicate hes a star…if you put him on the suns roster I ams ure everyone would view him as their ‘star’. They dont have one right now.

  • john

    The facts indicate he’s wildly overvalued, actually. The subjective opinion of fans/coaches is what made him an all star.

  • the barnes

    Being overvalued John does not mean you cant be a star. He is prob over paid and prob overvalued, that doesnt eman he isnt a ‘star’. There has been plenty of stars who have been overpaid and overvalued. The fact is what your saying is subjective in fans/coches opinions actually MAKES players stars, if Gay is a player a large portion of fans enjoy watching and find exciting, will pay money to see and like thats going along way to making him a ‘star’. A star isnt necessarily one of the best players in the league…

  • john

    Oh, also the whole Nash wanted to stay, “we” (who is “we”) pushed him out. I guess if you really want to dig in in the Gay thing for no reason, Nash wanted to go to LA.

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