The smoke has cleared, Alvin Gentry is gone and Lindsey Hunter is the interim head coach of the Phoenix Suns. A 17-year NBA veteran with no coaching experience, Hunter will get a 41-game audition for the rest of what’s been a forgettable season for the team.
That doesn’t sit well with many people, including former Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle.
Majerle, who spent four and a half seasons on Gentry’s coaching staff before parting ways with the organization earlier this week, visited the studios of Arizona Sports 620 Wednesday, and had a lot to say in his interview with Doug and Wolf.
“I think the right move would have been to hire Elston Turner,” Majerle said. “I understand change, I understand the firing of Alvin — I’m not saying it was Alvin’s fault that we had won 13 games. That in no way shape or form was all Alvin’s fault, at all. I think Alvin is a great coach and everybody knows he’s a great guy who was really good for this team.
“But when you are 13-28 or whatever you are, things are going to change — usually the head coach. I understand that, I’ve been through that as a player, I’ve seen coaches go, I understand that.”
Turner was in his second season as a Suns assistant, but had spent 14 seasons as an NBA assistant for the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets. He too was bypassed for the interim job and his employment status with the team is still undetermined.
“What I didn’t understand was it’s usually standard operating procedure at that point that the lead assistant gets (the interim job). We’re talking about Elston Turner, the guy who’s coached for 14 years, has played in this league,” Majerle said. “I have nothing but the greatest respect for him as a coach and a man and the way he goes about his business, and the respect that he had with his players.
“That being said, when he didn’t get it, I said ‘okay, then give me a shot.’ I’ve been here for five and a half years, I’ve been in the league for over 25 years, I’ve been here since ’88, I’ve put in my time, coached the Summer League, worked my tail off — give me a shot at it.”
Majerle, along with Hunter, Turner and fellow assistant Igor Kokoskov all got interviews with general manager Lance Blanks and president of basketball operations Lon Babby, but it ultimately was Hunter that got the post.
“To be bypassed, not only me, but Elston as well, to be bypassed by a guy who wasn’t even on the coaching staff? I don’t know if Lindsey is going to be a good coach. Maybe he is, I hope he is because first and foremost I hope this team is successful because I love the players — I’ve got a lot of respect for the players.”
But Majerle wasn’t done.
“That’s what really made me mad, is they said it would have been the easy thing to do is give Dan the job — and I heard Lon before, because of my popularity and because I’m in the Ring of Honor. Never once did I hear him say that I was qualified to be a coach, which I took offense to. I thought I’d be a great coach. I thought I did a great job with the Summer League.”
According to reports, Majerle will receive his full salary for the remainder of the season.