Kerr Answers Your Questions

 

We’re in the midst of looking for a new coach, preparing for free agency and scouting for the draft, so obviously there’s a lot of work to be done. But we’re confident that when all is said and done, we’re going to come away with a better ballclub next season. Sorry I couldn’t get to everyone, but here’s a sampling of some of the questions that came my way this month…

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Signing Grant Hill as a free agent and trading for Shaq were just two of the experiences Steve Kerr had in his first year as Suns GM.
(NBAE Photos)

 

You’ve obviously experienced a lot as a first-year GM… signing free-agents (Hill), trade demands (Marion), blockbuster trade (Shaq), playoff disappointment (Spurs), controversy (Coach D) and now a coaching search.  What’s the last year been like for you?
– Andrew D, Phoenix

Hi Andrew,
Yes, I’ll admit – I didn’t expect my first year to be anything like this. I knew we had a great situation and I figured we’d let it ride and see what happened. But in the NBA, things change quickly. Between making the Shaq deal and Mike moving onto New York, I’ve been much more active than I anticipated. But I’ve enjoyed the work and the process, and I’m excited about the opportunity to make the team better.

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Why don’t you coach the Suns? I really can’t think of a better choice out there. You were always a winner and a champion. You played for 3 of the best coaches ever. It would be a lot like the situation in San Antonio when Brian Hill left and Popovich took over. He has done a pretty fair job. I really believe you have what it takes to make the suns world champions.
– Gary B, Phoenix

Gary, Thanks for the compliment – I really appreciate it. But there are two reasons I wouldn’t coach this team. One, I don’t have the experience. I really believe coaching in the NBA is a job that requires training, and I haven’t coached at any level. Two, it’s an incredibly difficult job that would make balancing my family life and my career very difficult. In short, I’m not ready. Maybe down the road it’s something I’ll consider, but not now.

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Beechen Declares There's a Draft

Adam Beechen hopes to follow in Amare Stoudemire’s footsteps and be the next Suns’ star chosen through the draft.
(NBAE Photos)

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that I’ve made myself eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft. What? You weren’t watching my press conference at 4 a.m. on Sunday on the Tennis Channel? It was on just between a replay of the 1983 US Open Men’s Doubles Quarterfinals and a really interesting documentary on how to improve your lob.

Well, in any case, I’ve taken the plunge. Okay, I didn’t play in college…or high school…but that just means I haven’t developed any bad habits. And I may be a little older than your typical prospect, but my knees haven’t seen the wear and tear of countless competitive basketball games. And yes, I can’t jump, but the bright side there is that I’m not likely to get faked off my feet.

So you can see why I think I’m a cinch for the NBA. In the weeks leading up to the June 26th draft, I’ll be letting you peek behind the scenes at my journey from Superfan to professional basketball player for (hopefully) your Phoenix Suns, culminating in a draft-day diary that I’m sure will capture all the excitement and emotion of my life changing forever.

The first thing I decided I needed was an agent. It’s never too early to get started on endorsements, getting my name out there in the media, making sure teams are aware of me. Generate a little buzz. Luckily, I live in the buzz capital of America, Los Angeles. You can’t swing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar around here, without knocking over an agent. So I went right to the phone book and called the first agency listed: [Read more...]

Suns Hop on Coaching Carousel

“Here,” meaning without a coach and without an immediate plan for succession.

With Mike D’Antoni’s departure, the Suns are back on the coaching carousel.
(NBAE Photos)

In fact, the last time it happened for the Suns was in 1988, when the team looked outside the confines of the immediate organization and called on Cotton Fitzsimmons to run the bench and help rebuild the roster. And Cotton was an old pal, having coached the team for two years in the franchise’s early seasons.

Every time there’s been a coaching change in Phoenix since then, the new team leader has come from inside the organization, generally from the ranks of assistant coaches such as Paul Westphal, Danny Ainge, Frank Johnson, Scott Skiles…and Mike D’Antoni. That’s led to great continuity and organizational stability over the last twenty years. With a coach in place, the team has generally had an idea where they were going next, should the coach be fired, retire, or move on to greener pastures.

That’s not really the case, this time. New ownership, new style, new rules. And the team’s likely soon to be heading in a somewhat different direction than the one they’ve been traveling the past couple years.

I’ll miss Mike D’Antoni. We all will. He brought a lot of success and excitement to the Valley. The team was perfectly molded, for several years, to his style and preferences. And, very simply put, the pairing of D’Antoni with Steve Nash was the greatest teaming of coach and point guard since Magic Johnson and Pat Riley (sorry, Sloan and Stockton fans, but I give our guys the slight edge). [Read more...]

The Divorce is Final

Coach Mike D’Antoni will spend next season in New York after he couldn’t help bring a title to Phoenix over the past several seasons.
(NBAE Photos)

Watching this affair agonizingly wind its way through a maze of lawyers was a little like watching a split where you like and respect both parties, but at the same time knowing that staying together “for the sake of the children” is like the slightly fractured definition of an oboe (i.e. — an ill wind that nobody blows good).

So the bottom line here is that, given the circumstances, D’Antoni to the Knicks for a bundle and Kerr getting to select a coach more compatible with his philosophy is a win-win situation for the parties of all parts. Really the only way to go, in fact.

The operative words there, of course, are “given the circumstances.” And while one is shedding no tears over the result one can and does very much regret the “circumstances.”

In other words, whereas D’Antoni and this Suns roster were a perfect match for each other, and he and his MVP point guard were attached at the basketball hip, and whereas Kerr is widely recognized as a sharp basketball mind and universally acclaimed as genuine great guy, it’s a shame things they couldn’t resolve their differences.

Simply put, although they fell short of a title, both D’Antoni and Kerr had it very good together, and the immediate prospects for them apart are not all that promising for either.

D’Antoni is walking into the mother of all messes. And the best Kerr can hope for is that he gets as good a coach as he had, that Nash has at least one more great year in him, and that Shaq stays focused if neither of the above turns out to be true (see his track record in Miami).

The thing here is that, whatever your thoughts on the coaching upheaval, the Suns’ prospects for next year are clearly not nearly as bright as they were at this time last year – partly because of their own turmoil/question marks and partly because of the rising young powers in New Orleans and Portland and a possible return of the Lakers to their dynastic ways.

On the plus side it is possible that both Kerr and Coach Mike will learn something from the split.

Maybe a more experienced Kerr, who is after all a rookie general manager, won’t be so quick to take subtle public digs at his coach next time around. And maybe Coach Mike will develop a little thicker skin (heaven help him if he doesn’t in New York, which has been known to pierce the skin of a rhinoceros).

Also, a less defensive and more secure Coach Mike may come to realize there was nothing wrong with suggesting he needed to pay a little more attention to defensive detail, and a more experienced Kerr will understand that a more realistic key to good defense is good defenders, not better coaching.

With the personnel he had at his disposal, D’Antoni gave Phoenix fans the most entertaining and competitive team possible – a team that not only reenergized the Valley but the entire NBA.

So he owes nobody any apologies as he heads East, neither for his body of work nor for seeking a lot more money and security.

One of the Van Gundy’s, I forget which one, had it right when he said, “The Suns didn’t keep coming up just short because of Mike’s philosophy but because they kept getting nosed out by slightly better teams.”

Amen.

The bottom line: Best of luck in your new post and thanks for the memories, Coach Mike.

Season Wrap-Up


The game has begun to slow down for me.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

The 2007-08 campaign ended a lot sooner than we expected and following our loss in San Antonio on Tuesday were back in Phoenix on Wednesday to clean out our lockers. Talking to some of the guys following the elimination game, it seems we just have to do a better job of paying attention to every detail. Personnel wise and player wise we don’t feel San Antonio was necessarily better, but they’re so great at paying attention to every little thing and closing out games which makes them a championship team. They’ve done it four times in the past nine years by doing that and that’s what we have to learn. Every player has to be ready from start to finish and we can’t take any plays off, we have to stay consistent the entire game. I think we have points where we have a lot of energy, we make great runs, but we don’t sustain those runs. You watch San Antonio, they play consistent the whole game and that’s somewhere I think we can improve. [Read more...]