Suns are taking a risk with Alvin Gentry
Whether it was Joe Johnson bolting in 2005, Tim Thomas in 2006, Amare Stoudemire in 2010 or likely Steve Nash in 2012, the team has seen countless contributors skip town in search of more money or a better situation once their contracts with the team expired.
Unfortunately it appears they are willing to risk the same thing happening with head coach Alvin Gentry.
"First and foremost there is not even a scintilla of a moment, of an instant where anyone is questioning about whether he is going to be our coach next year - obviously he is going to be our coach," President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said at a gathering of local media this week.
Babby admitted, when talking about his team, that it lacked "top talent." A 33-33 record would indicated as much, though no one has really questioned Gentry's job security for this next season because of what happened in the last one.
But with his contract set to expire following this next season the idea of giving a contract extension to Gentry, who Babby said the team is pleased with, would make sense.
"My view is if a person has a three-year contract you assess it at the end of three years," Babby continued. "That's how I'm going to be judged, I've talked to Alvin about it, he's perfectly fine with that."
Babby's words sound reasonable enough, as the idea of judging Gentry's performance upon the completion of his contract would prevent the team from possibly extending him only to fire him when the team starts to struggle.
Except, you know, for the fact that Gentry has already proven himself to be a very good coach, and there's always the possibility he decides to leave on his own accord, finding a better situation for himself.
That is the chance the Suns are taking by allowing Gentry's contract to expire, because while he's only been the team's boss for three full seasons, the coach has shown deftness for getting the most out of what he has, and save one season, that hasn't been much.
Guiding the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2010 may have been Gentry's most noteworthy coaching job, but coaxing a respectable record out of his most recent squad may be his greatest accomplishment to date.
My colleague Vince Marotta who feels like Gentry deserved recognition for what he did this season, and I agree. However, I do not agree with Babby, who apparently feels like there is little reason to show appreciation for the coach in the form of a new contract.
In short, Gentry will have options if Phoenix decides to go in a different direction. But maybe that's the idea.
It may be a little conspiracy theory-y, or possibly just making something up out of thin air: but is the franchise waiting to see how Gentry does this upcoming season their way of saying "if the team stinks then you're out?"
Possibly very, very bad. Like, you know, "this guy should be fired" bad.
Except, in Gentry's case, the team's record reflects not on him, but on the people he works for. After all, all he can do is coach the talent in front of him, and the talent he had has simply not been good enough the last couple seasons.
"We didn't make the playoffs this year or last year, and I feel like if we make the playoffs and we exceed expectations he'll get another contract," Suns forward Jared Dudley told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf about his coach. "If we come out and have a year that the front office is expecting, I would be hopeful that Alvin Gentry will be back the next couple years."
Babby said the team did not meet expectations this season, failing to reach the postseason with a roster they felt was good enough to do just that. If that's the case, one of two possibilities exists as to why:
1. The team was simply not good enough, and the front office's belief in the talent was as misguided as it was foolish. Or…
2. Alvin Gentry's squad underachieved.
As the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words. While the Suns have done nothing but praise Gentry, the fact that they want to wait and see what happens next season before extending his contract may be the real sign of how they feel about the coach.