With the Suns’ season over and the offseason already in full swing as the team searches for a new general manager and a head coach, questions are aplenty. So instead of the traditional 5-on-5 to recap the season, we’re going to — like the Suns — start from scratch and work through five 5-on-1 sessions. Because if you can’t run an offense during a walk-through with a coach, no chance it’s working against five defenders.
We started off the discussion asking for one word to sum up the Suns’ season. In our second installment, we discussed at the best of the year, AKA, Goran Dragic. Part 3 touches on the most baffling, most indescribable and most surprising of 2012-13.
What part of the season was the most mind-boggling? Feel free to hit on anything from the front office, to coaching, to Michael Beasley.
Michael Schwartz: When you think about it, it would have to be Channing Frye — such a fit and healthy athlete — coming down with a heart condition in the preseason. He was the forgotten piece to this season, and most people don’t realize how much better the Suns’ offense has been when he’s on the floor the past few years whether he’s stroking jumpers or not.
But that was such a long time ago it doesn’t feel like it was still this season, so I will go with how the coaching change went down with not only Alvin Gentry and the Suns “mutually” agreeing to split ways but also assistants Elston Turner and Dan Majerle leaving with him. It was obvious at the time but utterly clear at this juncture that Gentry was not the problem, it was just a situation in which a struggling team felt it needed to make a change because that’s what struggling NBA teams do.
It’s even understandable that Turner might follow his boss out as well but pretty mind-boggling that a Suns institution like Dan Majerle would no longer want to work for the franchise for which he’s an icon. In a vacuum it is also be surprising that both Turner and Majerle would be passed over for an inexperienced coach like Hunter, but considering the support Hunter received from some in the front office it’s not as surprising.
Ryan Weisert: The most mind-boggling part of this season was the delusion that this team was going to be good and the lack of direction that delusion caused. In hindsight the Suns’ season played out like a movie where production was started before the script was finished. That’s the sort of thing causes directors to walk away (Alvin Gentry) and producers to quit (Dan Majerle and Elston Turner.) It seems as though the franchise had no plan for this year, and thus, the Suns logged more course changes than victories. The best evidence of this is the massive fluctuations in minutes for Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair, Michael Beasley and P.J. Tucker over the course of the year. The result of all the disruption was a season that was mentally and emotionally draining for the players and coaching staff. Other than the solidifying Goran Dragic as a player to build around, the franchise built nothing for the future. If instead the front office and coaching staff had forgone the delusion that the team was going to be good, the team could have gone the direction of developing young players and building chemistry all season instead of constantly changing course and getting nowhere. Would the Suns have struggled even more than they did had Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall played 15 minutes a night right off the bat? Most definitely, but look where the team ended up. It couldn’t have been that much worse.
Kevin Zimmerman: To go back to last summer, the gist of the free agency period went like this: The Suns spurned their two captains, Steve Nash and Grant Hill, and not only let them move to Los Angeles but did so seemingly without much of a goodbye. While Robert Sarver finally did the right thing and worked out a Nash trade with the rival Lakers, interviews done with both the point guard and Hill later reeked of a poorly-handled situation. As free agency began, Phoenix, rather than sending a thank you message toward their co-captains, was dialing up Michael Beasley.
This, along with the burned bridges of Alvin Gentry, Dan Majerle and Elston Turner, made little sense for an organization that was attempting to, at the least, be known for respecting its history of success. And Beasley represents mind-boggling itself. It wasn’t that he was risky because of inconsistency of 25-point outbursts followed by 1-for-13 shooting nights but the fact that those performances came in consecutive fashion along with explanations like this.
Dave Dulberg: The Alvin Gentry firing and Lindsey Hunter hiring was by far the most mind-boggling part of the 2012-13. A 13-28 record is by no means worthy of applause, but Alvin Gentry was forced to coach an underwhelming roster with nine new faces. And while everyone on the outside could see the team had no chance to make the postseason, Gentry was forced to coach under the expectation that a berth was achievable. Frankly, he never had a chance.
Then, after the team decided to part ways with Gentry, they opted to place the interim tag on an unproven coach when there were not one, but two viable options in Elston Turner and Dan Majerle. Not only did the decision alienate a Suns legend, it made no real sense.
Hunter had a brief background as a developmental coach, not as an Xs and Os guy. And sadly, it showed. Most nights under Hunter, it felt like the Suns were over-matched and disinterested. It’s one thing to lack talent, but the Suns didn’t play with a ton of heart over the final 41 games. Hunter’s promotion made way for a so-called “youth movement,” but it also seemed to divide the locker room between the veterans and the younger players.
The coaching changes in 2012-13 seemed to reflect the organization’s internal battle it’s been fighting for two or three years now: rebuild or compete for No. 8 seed. Hopefully, 25 wins signals that it’s time to start focusing on the former.
Matt Petersen: Of all the team and former player relationships to go sour, the Suns-Majerle debacle had to be the last one any semi-interested NBA fan or executive could have suspected. Majerle poured his heart and his business investments into the team and city, to the point where even younger fans recognize him as an integral part of the franchise.
Management’s back-handed and indifferent consideration of him after Alvin Gentry’s departure was baffling. All reports indicate Majerle received minimal communication and consideration in regards to the job, understandably leaving him in a huff. For a championship-less sports team with few legitimate “legends” sticking around, the Suns couldn’t have done a worse job looking out for one of their own.