Green: Gentry a perfect fit
Alvin Gentry is not only the right coach for the 2009 Phoenix Suns, but he's the best coach this team has had in quite a while. Though at first it seemed the team kept him on as head coach more out of convenience than actual merit, it is clear to me that the team could not have made a better hire.
Now, I understand that saying a coach who has guided his team to an 8-2 start is doing a great job isn't exactly going out on a limb, but to some people my saying he's even better than one whose teams averaged 58 wins a season for four years may seem a bit premature. But, it is not so much the fast start that has me sold, but instead the way Gentry is maximizing the talent that is on the roster.
Gentry, so far, seems to be Mike D'Antoni without the stubbornness and ego. D'Antoni was an offensive genius, but when it came to defense, rebounding, developing talent and holding players accountable he was less than stellar. In fact, it has been reported one of the main reasons he and Steve Kerr clashed was Mike's reluctance to go deeper into his bench and his unwillingness to devote practice time to working on the defense. Suns fans, you may remember that before D'Antoni's final season Kerr and the team thought about bringing in ace defensive assistant coach Tom Thibodeau to replace the departed Marc Iavaroni. D'Antoni, who still had carte blanche with the organization when it came to coaching and personnel decisions, instead chose to go with former Suns guard Jay Humphries to fill out the bench. One year later Thibodeau was a key reason for the Celtics becoming a defensive powerhouse on the way to a title and Humphries was out of work.
While I don't mean to say D'Antoni is the reason the Suns did not win a ring, it has become clear to me that his flaws as a coach - few they may be - did not help the cause. Gentry, on the other hand, seems to be the perfect combination of D'Antoni's offense with the defense, rebounding and player development that Kerr desired.
The fact that Gentry is not afraid to play young players like Goran Dragic, Lou Amundson, Jared Dudley and Earl Clark is a nice change of pace from an era where the team would not even draft a player for fear of spending money on someone who would never get off the end of the bench.
But really, all it took was one trip down to the Suns locker room to listen to the players talk about how much they enjoy playing these days to know that Gentry is doing a great job. He figured out what his predecessors did not: While the players want to run on offense with an open style, they have no aversion to playing defense and hustling for rebounds at the same time.
The common ground that Gentry has found with his team is what is going to make not only the Suns better than expected, but this the coach's most successful stint as a head coach in the NBA.