Shelby, NC native/App State alum Alvin Gentry has the Suns playing some great basketball right now.
All along, Kerr had the right man for the job already on staff. Alvin Gentry had head-coaching jobs in Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles with the Clippers before he joined D’Antoni in Phoenix. He had also worked for Larry Brown and with Gregg Popovich, and he combined the best of both his worlds when he took over for Porter. He returned the Suns to D’Antoni’s up-tempo style, but he also demanded they defend.
“He knows this team better than I do,” Kerr said of Gentry. “He knew what we needed, too. He shared that vision.”
Gentry pushed the Suns in training camp and before long Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) was stepping up to take charges. Asked why he had waited eight seasons into his career to become a more dedicated defender, Stoudemire gave a simple answer: No one had ever taught him.
D’Antoni had a warm, engaging personality, but he never liked confrontation, and this weakened the Suns both in the locker room and on the court. After Phoenix lost to the Spurs in the 2008 playoffs, nearly every player – and this included Steve Nash(notes) – privately expressed the same concern: The Suns needed more discipline. Gentry has provided the tough love, holding even his stars accountable.
“Before Alvin we didn’t really work on [defense],” Grant Hill said. “This summer Alvin said, ‘I don’t accept the fact that we can’t be a good defensive team.’
“Alvin has that kind of personality when he can be in the meetings watching film and he can call out Steve, he can call out Amar’e. A lot of coaches are scared to do that with their star players. He can do that. He can call out anybody.”