New Suns Head Coach Terry Porter and GM Steve Kerr answer questions at a press conference on June 9th.
The good news is Terry Porter and general manager Steve Kerr are obviously, absolutely and completely on the same page, which is not surprising considering they are from the same school (i.e. — old).
The better news is there is no reason not to think it is the right page. None. Nada. Zip. Nil.
I know every new coaching era is launched with everybody wearing happy faces and saying exactly the right things. And Porter’s introductory press conference was certainly no exception.
But beyond the happy faces and right words, Porter’s resume not only indicates he is the right man at the right time for the Suns, it positively shouts it.
In fact, it stamps him as the most qualified coach the Suns have ever hired AT THE TIME OF HIS HIRING.
You could, as they say, look it up.
John Kerr was more of a genial emcee and raconteur extraordinaire than coach, Jerry Colangelo was an executive pinch hitter, Butch Van Breda Kolff was a last minute desperation choice with baggage, John MacLeod and Cotton Fitzsimmons had zero NBA experience of any kind the day they were hired, John Wetzel had almost no coaching credentials, Paul Westphal had no NBA head coaching experience, Danny Ainge, Scott Skiles, and Frank Johnson also were all rookie head coaches, and Mike D’Antoni was a legend in Italy but an unknown coaching factor on this side of the pond.
But what Porter brings to the table is 17 years of NBA experience as a player, two as a head coach, three as a top assistant coach in Sacramento and Detroit and 20 trips to the playoffs in 22 seasons. And his resume also includes stints as a player and/or coach under the likes of Jack Ramsay, Rick Adelman, and Flip Saunders, not to mention certified geniuses Pat Riley and Greg Popovich for closers.
And it’s just as impressive for what it DOESN’T include – namely baggage. The guy doesn’t even have carry on. He’s been respected and admired everywhere he’s been and in every role he’s played.
He’s been touted by some, who grew disenchanted with his predecessor, as something on an anti-Mike who will bring the gospel of defense to the heathen natives. But he is not so much the “anti” as the logical successor in terms of philosophy in that he clearly believes in much of the system that made D’Antoni’s teams the most entertaining in the league while averaging 57 wins a year.
But as successful as it was, it was a system Kerr felt needed tweaking, and alas, what the GM saw as tweaking the coach saw as meddling, and a no-fault divorce beneficial to both parties was arranged.
And so Porter takes over what is arguably the most successful franchise in any sport to never win a title. His immediate assignment is to try and squeeze a championship run out of a group many around the NBA feel is on its way down, not up.
But while that may be true, down is not out. And if Steve Nash stays healthy, Shaq stays interested, and Amar’e buys into the tweaking this is still a 50-plus-win team with a shot if everything breaks just right.
But the freshly minted Kerr-Porter team is about more than just trying to take one last shot at squeezing through a title window many feel has all but slammed shut. Much more.
For better or worse, these are the guys who will determine what life will be like beyond Steve and Shaq.
There are no guarantees, of course. But if you were drawing up specifications for a young general manager and coach to lead the way into the future, you’d find that the Suns appear to have the two people who fit those specifications.
And on paper, you can’t ask for a better shot at the future than that.