Jeff Van Gundy hasn’t coached in the NBA since 2007, but he believes he knows a good coach when he sees one.
While the ESPN analyst never worked with Alvin Gentry during his 18-year career as an assistant and head coach with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, Van Gundy said unequivocally that Phoenix lost a terrific leader in their former head coach.
“Absolutely, very good,” Van Gundy told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Tuesday when asked his assessment on how good a coach Gentry is. “I felt he continued to get better and better and better every year.”
Gentry, who took over as the Suns interim head coach in February 2009 after six years as an assistant, led Phoenix to an appearance in the Western Conference Finals during his first full season as head coach.
Since 2009-10 however, the results have not been as noteworthy.
After two straight postseason-less campaigns and a 13-28 start to this season, Gentry and the organization agreed to “mutually part ways” Friday.
But according to Van Gundy, Gentry should not have been forced to shoulder the blame for the team’s recent woes.
“I thought he did an outstanding job in Phoenix,” said Van Gundy. “I think he’s a good coach and a great ambassador for any organization. I think he’s exactly the type of man you would want your son to play for and to emulate.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of a person than Alvin Gentry.”
Van Gundy thought so highly of Gentry that during a live ESPN telecast Friday the former coach took the opportunity to publicly chastise the Suns for their desire to make a coaching change.
Tuesday, Van Gundy didn’t exactly backpedal from his remarks.
“The idea that (the Suns front office) thought they weren’t making progress and should have been in the playoff hunt, I look at their roster and you would have to be naive to think that roster should be in the playoffs,” said Van Gundy. “I’m not knocking their guys, because they have some good NBA players. But you don’t have anybody that’s a top-half starter in the league.”
The Suns begin the second half of their 2012-13 season Wednesday night in Sacramento. And while the organization hopes a fresh start under interim head coach Lindsey Hunter serves as a recipe for success, Van Gundy made sure to share his piece of advice for Lon Babby and Co.
“The organizations that win, stick with a coach when it goes rough.”