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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If you could rewind a month, would you do anything differently as it relates to the situation with D’Antoni? Where do you think the relationship soured?
– Joseph, Glendale

Hi Joseph,
There’s really not much I would do differently. If Tim Duncan doesn’t make the three pointer to send Game 1 into a second overtime, we might not even be looking for a new coach. But the stress of the series loss combined with the changes I thought we needed for next year made it an uncomfortable situation for Mike, and he decided to move on. In the NBA, the reality is that 4 years is a long run for a coach, and perhaps it was just time for a transition.

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Any chance you can give some insights as to what tangibles you are looking for in the future head coach of the Suns? I personally would like to see the future head coach be someone who has a solid reputation in developing an athletic big man. I think we need someone who can challenge Amare and help make him a complete player, since he is transitioning into the role as the “face of the franchise”.
– Curt, Marshall, Missouri

Hi Curt,
Yes, the need to reach Amare is one of the major themes of this coaching search. Whether it’s a head coach or an assistant, I think it is critical we find someone who can help Amare improve at both ends of the floor. I think Amare has just scratched the surface and that he can learn to be a more complete player. That will be one of the challenges for the new coach.

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When is the latest you think a coach will be announced? By the draft or earlier? Also, how much stock do you put in the fact someone was a player and how good they were?
– Bryan Likins, New Albany, IN

Hi Bryan,
I would anticipate we’ll have a new coach in place in the next few weeks – by mid June at the latest and possibly earlier. As far as how important it is to have a coach who played in the NBA, I think it is a factor, but not a requirement. If there’s a great coach out there who didn’t play in the league, we may hire him.

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I’d love to see Paul Westphal and Paul Silas back with the Suns. Maybe even bring Dan Majerle on to show Barbosa what it means to be a great guard and play defense. What do you think of bringing in people who already have a connection with the team?
– Gordon Green, Orange, CA via Phoenix

Hi Gordon,
We have a lot of people affiliated with our organization who are really talented and possible candidates for our staff in some capacity. I’ve
already spoken with a number of them, and there is interest on both sides. The dynamics of the staff is critical, so the pieces have to fit. We’ll see what happens.

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I’m pleased to hear u will take ur time to find the new coach. Why not take a “hard look” at Michael Budenholzer? He works hard and gets the job done (4 rings). He has earned respect and the trust of players, coaches, and owners of a terrific and winning organization. As you know, he is born and raised in AZ, so he grew up a Suns and Wildcats fan! Will you consider interviewing
him?
– Christian Palacios, Chandler

Hi Christian,
Yes, Mike Budenholzer is a candidate, because he is someone I have an awful lot of respect for. He’s done a great job with the Spurs for the past decade or so, and I think he has a lot to offer.

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I have seen Coach K from Duke in the stands at Suns home games. Have you considered offering him the coaching position? He’s coached the US team and is revered as one of the greatest coaches of all time. Let’s give him a shot
at coaching the Suns!
– Adam, Newport Beach

Hi Adam,
Great thought. If there’s one college coach who could make the transition to the NBA, it would be Coach K. But he’s not going anywhere. He belongs to Duke, and I think he’ll finish his career there.

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Charles Barkley has found his calling in life – entertaining basketball fans with his commentary on TNT.
(NBAE Photos)

 

Steve, as a huge Suns fan, let me start out by saying that you will have my support on whoever you hire for our next head coach and whatever offseason moves are made. I was just wondering if Charles Barkley is a potential candidate for the coaching position? He may not have much experience, but I think he could bring a lot to this team, and hopefully get us over the hump.
– Chris, Pocatello, Idaho

Hi Chris,
I love Charles – he’s smart, funny, outspoken, and fun to be around. But I don’t think he’s cut out to be a coach. He’s meant to be doing what he’s doing right now – entertaining all of us with his hilarious commentary on TNT. Plus, if he really wanted to coach the Suns, he would have called me by now!

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Steve, would you consider only having a defensive minded coach and then have Steve Nash run the offensive side? Because, we all know nobody in the league runs offense better then Steve Nash right?
– Darren, Perth, Australia

Hi Darren,
There’s no question Steve could run the offense, and that our focus with the next coach will more than likely be at the defensive end of the floor. But the days of the ‘player-coach’ are long gone. I think we’ll let Steve be our point guard and get him some help on the sidelines.

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I don’t know if he has any coaching aspirations, but one of your former teammates who I think would make a great coach someday is David Robinson. He’s highly intelligent, knows the game, seems down-to-earth, yet could get firey and animated when needed, and I would think his presence would command respect. Oh, and he also knows defense. What do you think?
– Sammy, Peoria

Sammy,
David is a great guy, but anybody without an ounce of coaching experience will have a very difficult job on his hands. You’re right, David has all the qualities to be a great coach, but he would need to hone his craft a bit before I could consider hiring him for the Suns.

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Do you expect Mike D’Antoni to take any of the current assistant coaches with him? Could any of them be back with the Suns next year, or do you expect to have a completely new coaching staff?
- James, Mesa

Hi James,
Mike is definitely going to take some of his staff with him to NY, but at this point nothing is set in stone. We’re going to continue on with our
process in finding a head coach, and at that point we’ll begin to build a staff around that person. It’s not inconceivable that someone from the current staff could remain with us next season.

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There is only one true choice for head coach of the Phoenix Suns. He is the only player/coach that has been part of both NBA Finals appearances in Suns History. He was also unceremoniously fired in 1996, after they traded Dan Majerle and had 5 players on the injured list. He is a true blue (purple/orange) Phoenix Sun. And he has a chip on his shoulder to finish the job in Phoenix. He can relate to millionaire ball players, like Chuck then, now Shaq. Offense won’t suffer. He has learned defense from Avery. Please hire Paul Westphal!
– Steve, Glendale

Hi Steve,
That’s a great thought. I’m a big Paul Westphal fan – I played for him in Phoenix my rookie season in 1988, when he was an assistant for Cotton. Again, we’ll see where this process takes us.

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I want the Suns to win a title, no doubt about that, but I want the Suns to still be exciting to watch while being a tile contender. Do you feel that you should still take some of what D’Antoni had built with the Suns and try to incorporate that into the new Suns of the coming future or start completely over? Also on a side note I do hope defense becomes a more important role in the future Suns.
– Leon B, Bristol, TN

Hi Leon,
My vision is for this team to continue to run and be up tempo, but to be better defensively as well. We’re not going to do a 180 degree turn here and become something we’re not. But I do believe we can be more balanced, and for that to happen we have to have a stronger defensive foundation. I believe it’s possible to be exciting to watch and good at the defensive end.

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You were a member of 5 championship teams. Is there any unique ingredient that our current Suns roster lack that each of your championship teams possessed?
– Brooks Etheredge, Birmingham, AL

Hi Brooks,
Yes, there are two ingredients we had that this Suns team lacks: Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan. Those guys are the main reasons I have any rings at all. But our Suns team has a lot of talent, and I think the combination of players we have and their continued growth will make us a championship contender.

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Is it just me, or did the Phoenix Suns not use Shaq properly? The playoff game they lost in OT was a great example. Shaq was open under the basket at the end of regulation.
– James Johnson, Kea’au, Hawaii

Hi James,
I thought Mike did a really good job of incorporating Shaq into the offense as the season went on. Perhaps we just didn’t have enough time together on the court before the playoffs started. But there’s no doubt that Shaq will be more comfortable next season, and that we’ll have more cohesion by the time the playoffs roll around.

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Now that we’re essentially married to Shaq for what will probably overlap Steve Nash’s remaining two years, what is the plan offensively with Shaq on the court? Dumping it in the post gave questionable results with him at best, but he is a good passer. How about some high/low sets with he and Amare?
– Nick, Scottsdale

Hi Nick,
I think in order for Shaq to be effective, he has to be on the move more and not just posting up on the block where it’s easy for the defense to load up on him. I also think we can use Amare more in post up situations and put Shaq on the weakside for offensive rebounds. But all of that will be up to the new coach.

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Why doesn’t Amare Stoudemire get held accountable for all the defensive lapses he seems to suffer from? I can understand Steve Nash not playing great defense. being 34 years old but Amare is a beast when his defense is on. Does Amare not realize that?
– Jon Kim, Seattle

Hi Jon,
Amare needs to be more consistent with his defensive effort, and he knows it. I’ve talked to him about it several times this season. One of the tasks for our new coach will be to get more out of Amare defensively. Amare has to want to get better, and he has to accept coaching. I know that Amare has great passion for the game, and I know he wants to be great. I think he’s going to respond and get better.

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Why doesn’t Shaq shoot free throws underhanded ? You know the ole granny shot? If his hands are too big to do it the conventional way.
- Ted, San Diego

Ted,
From what I understand, Shaq has had several coaches ask him to shoot the ‘potty shot’ from the foul line. But let’s face it, it’s a bit embarrassing to shoot it that way. Plus, it’s not that easy. Have you ever tried shooting that way? I don’t think it’s as easy as people think.

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This past season, DJ Strawberry got the most minutes of any Suns rookie since Zarko Cabarkapa a few years back. Will he and Alando Tucker get more of a chance to showcase and develop their skills in 2008-09?
– Josh, Albany, NY

Josh,
It’s imperative for those two to continue to develop their games, and it’s important for us to give them more opportunities to play next season. We’re an aging team, and we need young talent. I’ve always felt the greatest improvement in a player’s career comes in year 2. That’s because there’s a year of confidence under one’s belt, and a sense that it’s time to begin building a career. I think both Alando and DJ can play, but they have to prove it.

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Unlike the NFL, NBA teams do not seem to make many blockbuster trades during the draft. It seems to me that the Suns need to get one more real stud tocomplement Nash and Stoudemire. What do you think the chances are of moving up in the draft from the 15th overall pick to a top 10 pick? Is there any particular player(s) in the draft that would be worth moving up for this year?
– Darrill Batte, Los Angeles

Hi Darrill,
Moving up in the draft is always a possibility, and it’s something we’re going to explore. But we also think that we’re going to get a very good player at 15. The two players at the top of the draft are obvious, but after that there appears to be a group of 15 or so players who are all pretty evenly matched. We’re in a good spot.

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With this year’s 15th pick, do you believe that the player drafted will be able to contribute right away? Is this draft deep enough?
– Ernie Lau, Durango, CO

Ernie,
I see some players who are good enough to play right away, and I see some who are maybe a year or two removed from being rotation players. It all depends on what you end up with. I think the best thing to do for us is to take the best player available, and then add to our roster accordingly through free agency in July.

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What do you think of the Arizona players in this draft? And are the Suns interested in either of them?
– Brad, Phoenix

Hi Brad,
Due to the fact that both Arizona players are underclassmen, I’m not allowed to comment on them publicly. Talk to me in a month or so.

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There are rumors that Steve Nash could potentially be traded, is there any truth to those rumors? (I’m crossing my fingers that he doesn’t!) Thank you for your time Mr. Kerr, and I’m sure the 08-09 season will have a better outcome!
– Jacob, Tucson

Hi Jacob,
Listen, if Kareem could be traded, then everyone is expendable. With that said, I doubt Mr. Nash is going anywhere.

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I was wondering if you are looking at any of the high profile free-agents?
– Tyler B, Paradise Valley

Hi Tyler,
There are a lot of free agents this season and not very many teams with cap room. That bodes well for us, because players want to come to Phoenix and play for the Suns. I think we’ll be able to find a bargain or two and add some depth to our roster.

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Please tell me you are not going to entertain the idea of trading Boris and LB for Marbury. I don’t believe either showed their potential under Coach D’Antoni, but could become the players we know they can be under the right coach. As a season ticket holder (2008/2009 is my 4th year) I think this would be a huge mistake. Thanks for listening.
– Eileen Heaberle, Phoenix

Hi Eileen,
Ain’t gonna happen!

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Do you expect to resign any of the bench players? Gordan Giricek? SeanMarks? Brian Skinner? Eric Piatkowski?
- Dan, Gilbert

Hi Dan,
We’ll have to wait and see how the draft and free agency plays out. I like all those guys and thought each brought something to our team last season. Eric and Sean were incredibly professional and added to the character and culture of our team. Gordan came in and played well for us late in the season, and Brian is an excellent shot blocker who can help us. We’ll see what happens.