Dan Majerle’s decision to leave Suns about loyalty, risks

Posted by on January 22nd, 12:21 pm

Unlike the concept of karma, loyalty isn’t often reciprocated.

Dan Majerle’s assistant coaching tenure in Phoenix is over. Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic confirmed on Tuesday morning that the Suns Ring of Honor member and five-year assistant coach won’t return to the team.

Two days of absence from team practices after being skipped over in favor of Lindsey Hunter for the interim coaching position made it nothing surprising, and fellow assistant coach Elston Turner’s similar position makes it appear that he could be headed out the door as well.

What is surprising is how this might allude to discord in the organization, of course. Alvin Gentry’s coaching staff was clearly loyal, and it was a fresh breath in an NBA world where business often rules supreme.

Marjerle’s role as a community member in Phoenix since he was drafted by the team in 1988 is the main reason for that. He spent seven seasons with the Suns and then returned to the franchise leading into his retirement. His pushups following a three-pointer that ended his NBA career were engrained in everyones minds as one of the best Phoenix send-offs — it said about as much about Majerle’s personality than Steve Nash’s attempted subtle exit last season said about his own.

Now, this isn’t a time to condemn the Suns’ front office completely. We don’t know the full story behind it, and loyalty to Alvin Gentry and even Turner is something that probably pushed Majerle to his decision.

However, Marjerle’s decision is a blatant sign that the Suns aren’t the same franchise that, behind Cotton Fitzsimmons, told Phoenix fans they’d be sorry for booing a young man back in 1988. We all knew this.

Dan Majerle’s loyalty to Phoenix was ever clear. A successful restaurant chain only added the physical evidence that he had an imprint in the city as much as it had on him.

It’s not time to act like Majerle is riding off into the sunset. In fact, as we’ve said about Gentry, he’ll probably enjoy the next few months a lot more than he would if he’d been stuck with a struggling Suns team.

As the head coach of the Suns Summer League squad, Majerle said this July that he’d love to one day find a head coaching opportunity. Now, the option for that to happen in Phoenix is gone, and that’s a shame if he wasn’t given a fair look. It’s a shame because the team once took a risk on him. He made that risk pay off 10-fold.

The Suns are going with a clean slate — as far as the roster goes, a bare one — and they’ll need another Majerle-esque storyline in the next permanent head coach or draft pick to make people forget about this season.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Dan Majerle · Phoenix Suns News

36 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben // Jan 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I’m with Thunder Dan! What’s left there for him to assistant coach? I’m kind of glad that they did not select him as the head coach because the best coach in the world is not going to make the Suns a contender anytime soon without some serious player acquisitions.

    Hopefully, he gets a head coaching gig somewhere and then ends up back in Phoenix sometime soon. I will always be a fan of his and of Phoenix. The Suns (front office) sure are making it tough to hang with them lately though…

  • 2 George // Jan 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Frist the front office screws up the roster. Then they screw up the coaching staff. Is there anything left??

  • 3 john // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    It’s possible Dan had been weighed, measured, and found wanting. I don’t think it’s safe to assume (as many fans have) that Dan was completely overlooked. And either way, Dan wasn’t even put in place by Blanks. Finally, if you actually thought Gentry did a poor job coaching, why would you believe his assistants to be any better?

    Thunder Dan is a Phoenix Sun. That’s never going to change. But just because he and the team have such a history together doesn’t mean they are REQUIRED to make a future together.

  • 4 bk // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Lindsey Hunter has two championship rings. It is his edge.

  • 5 Scott // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    If he can’t get in with the Heat, I’m not sure what else would be a good move.

    Ideas?

  • 6 Scott // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    @john -

    As you say, more or less, there are more people who aren’t good coaches than who are.

    If Majerle could get on with another team, it would provide more data on which to judge him.

    As for those saying that it’s best to not get the head coaching job with the Suns right now … even if it’s a disaster, it probably still a huge leg up to have “Head Coach” on your resume.

  • 7 Ty-Sun // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I’m going to make no friends by saying this but loyalty should be way down the list of reasons for hiring a head or interim coach for any team, in any sport at any level of play.

    I don’t blame Dan for being upset at not being given the opportunity to be the interim coach. The FO has given little evidence that they know what the hell they are doing but I just think that Hunter will be the easiest one of the internal choices that the Suns had to make interim coach to discard during the off-season and bring someone else in from outside as head coach. I have no idea if this had any bearing on the decision to promote Hunter but IF the FO is determined to try to bring in a “name” head coach next season then Hunter is the “safe” choice as the interim coach.

    IF they want to bring in someone from outside to coach next season, whoever it is he would probably want to bring in his own assistants and Majerle and Turner would probably be on the way out then if not now.

    I have no real knowledge of what’s going on in the Suns’ FO. I’m just trying to make SOME kind of sense out of what’s going on.

    Keep in mind that what one person sees as logic, another person sees as insanity. I’m just trying to figure out what sort of “logic” the FO used to make this decision and I admit that I could easily be way off in any of my suppositions.

  • 8 Troy // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    They dissed Thunder Dan for the 2nd time….I have to say I dont believe theyre will be a third… Sad days ahead… As someone said above, “if Gentry couldnt get it done, what makes you think his assistants could?”. Well sir that is what happens in this league, you get an oppurtunity just like Gentry did, to create your own team, your own ideas, your everything, and everyone else is just an assistant to your idea. Thunder Dan has been apart of this franchise for a long time, and they selected Hunter over him, who for one has no coaching history in this league, is a shocker. They disrespected a lot of people with this choice of IC, dont be surprised if a lot more Suns legends begin to speak aloud about this… Hunter has never coached a game in the NBA, has no coaching experience, and just retired from the league as a player in 2010…Thunder Dan was coaching by then. This FO is some shit from the east coast, and is showing no love to our Suns history. I wish Jerry C was still the boss :(

  • 9 Bryan // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    It seems like Alvin Gentry wasn’t given enough credit for holding this team together. The problems with the Suns have nothing to do with the coaching staff and everything to do with the front office and ownership not putting together a talented roster. Hopefully, Blanks and Babby are long gone before the offseason rebuild begins or it could be years before this team is watchable.

  • 10 Ty-Sun // Jan 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Just a little more explanation as to why I called Hunter a “safe” choice as interim coach. Majerle and Turner both have a good amount of coaching experience. If either of them had been named interim coach and we actually saw some improvement in this team during the second half of the season, it would have been harder for the FO to NOT give either of them a shot next season at the head coaching spot IF they are determined to bring in an outsider during the off-season.

    With Hunter, unless he somehow pulls off a miracle and the Suns make the playoffs this year, that won’t be an issue. And if the Suns play worse in the 2nd half of the season, well what else would you expect from a coach with so little coaching experience?

    Right or wrong, I think the FO hired Hunter because they didn’t see either Majerle or Turner as the answer as the future head coach of the Suns AND Hunter would be the easiest to NOT give the head coaching job next season.

  • 11 john // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    @Troy

    Experience =/= Quality

    Just because Thunder Dan had a few years of experience as an assistant doesn’t automatically make him a better candidate for the job. It gives him better qualifications in one aspect, job history. Big whoop. At one point EVERY coach was hired over someone with more experience than him/her.

  • 12 Scott // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    @Ty-Sun -

    I believe the next coach has already been selected, and it is Mike Malone. If Hunter excels during this period, he’d be a backup choice.

  • 13 Scott // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    @Bryan -

    Agreed.

    In fact, I think Gentry’s final words were, “Apres moi, le deluge.”

  • 14 Suns fan on LOA // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Blanks and Hunter are buddies. Not to mention isn’t Hunter in a leagal battle?

  • 15 john // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Not that this means he’s a great person, but I believe that mortgage fraud case has been closed and Hunter has been cleared of charges.

    How much faith you have in the legal system might determine how you interpret that information.

  • 16 Beave // Jan 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Tradition and loyalty do matter in sports. At least they did. If you want a loyal fan base to fill your seats. Try a little loyalty in the front office. That makes losing bearable, and winning even sweeter.

  • 17 Mullover // Jan 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Saver is the worst thing that ever happened to a once great franchise. From day one he has shown in dramatic style, that he has no talent as a manager of men. He gets a big fat “F” for his inability to create harmony or esprit de corps. All his decisions, no matter how sensational or promising, have been the wrong choices. Please Mr Sarver, take mercy on us and sell the Suns to some real basketball aficionado.

  • 18 lifelong suns fan in pdx // Jan 22, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Sarver has been a complete disaster. I like Lindsay Hunter, but I feel pretty confidant he was hired because he’s someone’s buddy. This ay be the worst FO in the NBA. I’m always hopeful for the Suns future, but it’s not looking good right now. Every other bottom dweller team has top a couple young prospects. Sarver sold off all our draft picks to save a few bucks. Depressing….

  • 19 Suns are rebuilding // Jan 23, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Firing Gentry who has proven to be an excellent coach was a ajoke. He was ready to turn the corner and just give the young guys more experience maybe knowing it would even give us a chance at a better pick at the same time allowing them to grow up a bit. What a shame…and now Dans deal. This dysfunctional management is making it hard to trust the Suns for the future. Im routing for as many suns losses as possible , anyone who plays the lakers, and anyone that’s worse than us. Now knowing that some great minds are leaving the suns were probably draft some bums with our pick and the Lakers.

  • 20 SkyBill40 // Jan 23, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Hunter had the advantage for being one of Babby’s old clients to set him apart from the rest who were looking at the job. Despite Majerle’s loyalty to the franchise from day one, he never really had a shot at the position given the front office situation. While I liked Hunter as a player and respect him for that, I think Majerle should have been given a shot ahead of him given his tenure with the franchise and the fact he was already an assistant.

  • 21 George // Jan 23, 2013 at 8:33 am

    This is all about the bumbling babes in the front office putting their stamp on the team. Or you might say stamp out the team and build it from nothing.

  • 22 john // Jan 23, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Another serious question. Why does anyone question the FO’s decision to go with “their” guy rather than their predecessor’s?

    I mean, if you were the GM, would you rather hire a guy you hand picked or would you rather hire an assistant who was there before you out of obligation due to “experience” and a general goodwill between said assistant and the community?

    I don’t like Blanks or Babby, but they’re getting crucified here for doing something that isn’t objectionable in the slightest. People are just mad about this because they like Thunder Dan (I do too). But Blanks had every right and even the obligation to hire the guy HE thought was right for the job.

  • 23 Scott // Jan 23, 2013 at 9:51 am

    @john -

    I agree that GMs tend to pick their own coaches, and that’s fine. Personally, I’m happy to see Gentry go; not that he was a bad guy, but he appeared to have his weaknesses, and the current team didn’t seem to be playing to his strengths.

    Anyway, probably more of the upset here comes from the sense that the quality of the team is dropping. You do the basic eyeball test and it looks like there’s a big drop in quality going from Gentry to Hunter. Add that to the failures in player recruitment, and you ought to hear some justified whining from the fan base.

  • 24 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Jan 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I’m sorry, but the fan base has no reason to whine. They asked for this.

    Yeah we all love Nash, but it was clear that the fans of the franchise wanted him to remain a Sun once Amare left. Clearly that was the time to reload, and instead the FO made moves to put a team out there that could work with Nash at the center of things.

    Imagine it. If the rebuild started when Amare left, we would be 2 or 3 lottery picks and cleared cap space into the rebuild going into this off-season instead of at ground zero.

    As a fan who has been waiting on the rebuild, i’m not mad about anything. I’ll ride it out.

  • 25 Voqar // Jan 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Well, yeah, it’s hard to say whether Thunder Dan is qualifed to be a head coach or not but I don’t see how he could be any less qualified than some scrub with zero coaching experience who was nowhere near as good a player while a player.

    This is basically just Sarver and our worst FO in sports saying they wanted any corpse they could pay as little as possible to fill the spot.

    I’d be upset at being passed over for this if I was Dan, but it’s probably for the best since this franchise is dead as long as Sarver owns it. Nobody should want anything to do with it, include we the most loyal of fans.

  • 26 john // Jan 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

    “I don’t see how he could be any less qualified than some scrub with zero coaching experience who was nowhere near as good a player while a player.”

    It’s thinking like this that baffles me. How good of a player was Gregg Popovich. When Mike Krzyzewski got hired at Duke, was there NO ONE who was more qualified & a better college player? Phil Jackson was a pretty mediocre (maybe even bad) player. Does that mean he doesn’t know anything about the game? How is Phil Jackson qualified to coach Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant when he could barely hold his own on an NBA court? Larry Brown was a pretty poor player as well. When he got his first coaching gig, should someone else have got it over him because they were more qualified and a better player? Mark Jackson was a pretty great player, does that mean he’s a better coach than all the guys mentioned above? How did any of those guys get their first head coaching gig when there is ALWAYS someone with more experience?

    How many times does it need to be proven that experience is but one aspect of qualification. Seniority is but one aspect. I’m not saying Hunter is necessarily the right guy for the job, and that he will prove to be a better coach than Dan Majerle. I am no fortune teller, but you have got to be KIDDING me with all this lame whining, people. You make no sense.

  • 27 George // Jan 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Its not about Hunter or about Day. It is about Gentry.

  • 28 john // Jan 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Who, by all accounts, was nothing more than a decent coach. Show me how Gentry was an amazing coach?

    Is it solely his fault that the Suns are bad? No. But if the Suns had no intention of keeping him on after his contract expired, why not let an interim coach get a crack at it after all hope is lost?

    The point is, Gentry wasn’t a great, irreplaceable asset. Why should the Suns have kept him?

  • 29 Bob // Jan 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Obviously there is a lot of disorganization in the SUN’s front office. I would guess that Gentry had some input into draft choices but last year draft and trades left Gentry with a “no win” situation. Whatever made anyone think Beasley was anything more than what he had shown in his previous NBA stops and then to hand him a key to the bank. I think the final blow for Gentry was the question of either playing to win or playing for draft position in the final half of the season.

    Iam inclined to agree that Hunter may be the cheapest now and easiest to get rid of at season end. I cannot understand having a team with no real basketball minds at a critical control point. I think Sarver is a bean counter and is trying to reinvent how you run a professional basketball team. Would he hire a BB coach with no financial or banking experience to run his banking business? I don’t think so.

    I vote for Jerry Colengelo to buy the team back or let Brian Colengo with Jerry’s money buy the team. As it stands now we will be rebuilding for a very long time and my season ticket will not wait forever.

  • 30 Dean // Jan 23, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    No what the suns should have done with Amare is sign & trade for david Lee, we would still have a quality power forward, then in the same off season they blew up the bench, let LB and Lou Amundson go, then traded Dragic like it was his fault they gave him a crappy bench to work w/. This team has been slowly declining since the trade for Joe Johnson and its always about Sarver saving a few bucks. He wants a loyal fan base while he’s bending us over.

  • 31 Dean // Jan 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Can Cuban own 2 teams? I din’t like him & he makes bad decisions sometimes but atleast he’s trying to have a quality team.

  • 32 john // Jan 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Even if it were true that Sarver is a “penny pincher,” as so many people like to say, he’s not exactly pinching “pennies.”

    You try to convince yourself that spending $16M on Kurt Thomas is a good idea. I don’t care how rich you are, $16M isn’t a small amount of money. I don’ think the man is a penny pincher at all. I think he’s a gambler. He likes to take calculated risks on guys who *could* pay off big. So far, his gambles have been awful. Absolutely awful.

  • 33 Dean // Jan 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    @ John

    Not a gambler, a gambler would’ve gambled on Amare’s knees while having the best medical staff available. Not saying it would’ve been a good bet, but that would’ve been rolling the dice, he continuously cuts corners hoping a polished (cheap) turd will turn in to a diamond. The man has no business running a team and can’t pick a FO to save his life or team. He will run this team in to the ground and when he stops making a profit off it cause no one wants to watch, he’ll bail & sell it.

  • 34 john // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    A fool (Dolan) would have bet on Amar’e’s knees. It’s not an insignificant gamble to throw $7M at guys like Beasley, Childress, Frye, Dudley, etc. It’s not an insignificant gamble to reject Nash offers and assume he was more valuable on the court than the assets he could turn into. It’s not an insignificant gamble to fire Mike D’Antoni, hire Steve Kerr, hire Terry Porter (not cheap either, by the way), sign Shaq (highest paid player in the league at the time)…

    Cheap is one thing Sarver isn’t. Again, he foolishly spends his money, in my opinion. But cheap is the completely wrong adjective to describe this ownership group.

    And I agree with you that he’s terrible at choosing FO’s, and he hasn’t hired a good coach yet (that includes Alvin). I just disagree about calling him cheap because it’s simply false.

  • 35 john // Jan 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    And I should clarify, the biggest gambles I’m talking about aren’t related to player personnel. An owner doesn’t have much to do with that process. The gambles I’m talking about are the changes he has made to the FO. The rate of turnover in the FO has been very high, and new positions are mostly being filled by newcomers. It’s risky (a gamble) to hire someone with no experience as a GM. It’s risky to hire a PBO with no experience. It’s risky to fire a beloved coach. It’s risky to essentially fire Kerr, who had gained the respect of fans after quickly losing with the KT, Shaq, and Porter deals.

    The amount of instability and lack of experience in the FO is a great risk.

    Player personnel, that’s not an owner’s call (if it was, why bother having a GM?). Sarver’s risk are his picks for FO positions. So far, I have been staunchly against his picks (from Gentry to Kerr to Blanks to Babby to you name it).

  • 36 Why lossing Dan Majerle, not Alvin Gentry, hurts the Suns coaching staff more | topherlambert // Jan 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    [...] Check out Valley of the Suns Kevin Zimmerman’s article on just that here. [...]

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