Since the All-Star break the Suns have been hotter than the asphalt of a Phoenix parking lot in July. They’ve rattled off nine wins in 11 games, have moved over .500 for the first time this season and they’re only a half game back of the eighth and final playoff spot. Needless to say, after a rough start, things are starting to look brighter in Phoenix.
When asked after Sunday’s game to identify the difference between his team in the first and second half of the season, Head Coach Alvin Gentry sarcastically responded: “Coaching.” As they say, there’s an ounce (or in this case a pound) of truth in every joke.
Gentry is quietly putting together one of the most impressive coaching efforts in the NBA this season. Dare I even say a coach-of-the-year-type campaign?
Some may think that statement is crazier than a Steven Tyler critique on American Idol , but it’s not – if anything, it’s more like a random Charles Barkley comment on Inside the NBA.
See, chemistry has been the key to the Suns’ resurgence in recent weeks, and that starts with the head coach. Gentry seems to be pulling all the right strings, as seven different players have led the team in scoring in their eleven post-All-Star games – two of which were bench players (Michael Redd and Shannon Brown) who the coach put into more prominent roles.
He has been like a chef on the Food Network show Chopped. He was given a basket of ingredients he wasn’t completely familiar with, had a truncated period of time to examine them and then had to put them together and find a recipe for success as fast as possible with judges, in this case the fans, watching his every move.
Unlike the show though, Gentry’s ingredients weren’t identical to his fellow coaches. He’s just been able to turn it into a more impressive final product. President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and General Manager Lance Blanks should also be given credit for doing the shopping.
When you look at what the Suns have been able to accomplish in the shortened season, it’s a testament to Gentry’s ability to do his job. Am I biased? Yes. I believe he is a genuinely nice guy who I happen to work with, but it is tough to argue with his results.
The league-leading Chicago Bulls are the only team with a better record than the Suns since March 1. Not to mention Gentry’s club has beaten some of the heavy hitters in the West since the middle of February. Victories have come over the Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Mavericks, and the team has held its own against the Thunder. All of these results are signs of a team primed to make a run.
While the season is a long way from over, the Suns have a chance to surprise many by making the playoffs. If they can get in and complete their turnaround, it’ll validate just how good Gentry is at getting the most out of his teams (see: 2010 Western Conference Finals run for more proof). It’ll prove that he, maybe, just maybe, has something really cooking in Phoenix.
What do you think of Gentry’s performance this season?