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