At age 42, Lindsey Hunter has no experience as a head coach at any level.
But Sunday, the 17-year NBA veteran was given the reigns of a struggling 13-28 Phoenix Suns team for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
While the Suns front office had plenty of veteran options in assistant coaches Elston Turner, Dan Majerle and Igor Kokoskov, Hunter was tagged with the interim label and tasked with replacing Alvin Gentry, because Phoenix general manager Lance Blanks said he needed to respond to the wishes of the players.
“Lindsey will lead the group for the next 41 games or so,” Blanks said Sunday. “We believe for what’s needed he’s the right choice. Beyond those 41 games, we don’t know.”
Hunter previously worked for the organization as a scout before being named the player development coordinator in August 2012. Before coming to Phoenix, Hunter worked for the Chicago Bulls in a similar capacity.
Because Hunter is just two years removed from his playing career, Blanks believes the two-time NBA champion might be the perfect leader for a team floundering in basement of the Western Conference.
“The organization needed a jolt,” said Blanks. “We needed something that would shock the system for us and the players. Risk trumps safety in this business. We felt this was the right person to take the risk on.”
Hunter, who played for the likes of Phil Jackson and Larry Brown, will be expected to do one thing during the second half of the season.
“I think the word is accountability,” said Blanks when asked what he wants to see from Hunter. “We’re looking for him to hold each player accountable. To hold the balance of his staff accountable. We’ll challenge him in that. And he’ll challenge us I’m sure.”
A so-called “youth movement” was discussed in the days leading up to Gentry’s departure on Friday, and when asked about whether such a move was coming, Blanks suggested that Hunter will have final say.
“Ultimately, Lindsey will have to make those decisions with our support,” said Blanks. “We’re not the ones in the trenches every night. He’ll be the one that’s doing that.”
Hunter’s first game won’t be until Wednesday night in Sacramento, but already his new coaching staff is in a state of flux.
Majerle and Turner weren’t present at Sunday’s practice, although Blanks said both were offered to the opportunity to remain in their roles. When reached by Arizona Sports 620’s Craig Grialou, Turner admitted that he was weighing all of his options.