Last week in his weekly segment with Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo, Phoenix Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter said his team is still learning some of the basic parts of the game.
“We have a bunch of young guys who we’re trying to teach a lot of basic things to,” Hunter said. “And not that they don’t know how to play, but at this level there are certain things that are expected of you and you’re almost expected to know that we’re still teaching.”
One of the things Hunter mentioned was the difference between the “strong side” and “weak side” of the court. It made sense then, that the team has struggled so much, if Hunter is spending much of his time teaching things most players probably should have learned long before they ever reached the NBA.
That would, in part, explain why the Suns are 25-56 and at the bottom of the NBA standings.
A guest of Burns and Gambo’s Tuesday, former Suns coach Alvin Gentry — whom Hunter replaced — had some thoughts on what his former players allegedly didn’t know.
“I’ll say this to that situation: I think that really is kind of taking a shot at Larry Brown, Phil Jackson, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Erik Spoelstra and you can keep naming guys on and on. I am pretty sure that any guy on that team — you know, I would to specifically know who he would have been referring to, because I think any guy on that team, if you ask him where is strong side and where is weak side, I think they’ve got a pretty good handle on what that is,” he said. “They did understand that.
“The rotations they may not have gotten there in time or something, but I think everybody on that team understands strong side and weak side.”
Indeed, only two players on the roster have been with the Suns their entire career, meaning the vast majority of players have received coaching from people outside of the organization, including some of the very best minds in basketball. So if they don’t know such a simple concept the problem would, in theory, affect other teams, too.
Gentry, who was fired on January 18 after the team started 13-28, said he thinks you could ask any player on the team what the terms are and they’d give you the correct answer, continued.
“You know, Lindsey was on my staff and he was the player development guy, so I think at some stage if you’re working as a player development guy that would be something that would be covered too.”
The former coach added he does not really want to get into the story any more, other than to add if Hunter is referring to his own coaching then that’s OK.
“But I think it is pretty bold to take a shot at a Tom Izzo or a Roy Williams or a Larry Brown or a Phil Jackson or an Erik Spoelstra, all those guys who have won championships,” Gentry said. “And I bet if you ask the players, at some stage, strong side and weak side was covered with those guys.”
So why, then, would Hunter say what he did? Is he trying to pin blame for the team’s issues squarely on Gentry and the former coaching staff?
“If they feel that way then more power to them,” Gentry said. “I’m not going to get into a contest where I’m going to have to justify the way I coach with anybody down there, and so I could care less.
“I know what I am as a coach and I’m confident in what I am as a coach, and if they feel that way, and if they feel that I’m the reason that the team is not doing very good right now, then more power to them.”
Gentry, who said he still cares about players on the team and does not want them to go through tough times, added he’s not really looking to be negative. In fact, he says he’s moved on.
“I don’t want to get into a contest of what was done there and what wasn’t done there, and if they feel good about saying that I’m the cause of the players being stymied in their development then so be it, let them say that and that’s fine.”
Bitter? Well, not exactly.
“I am not going to let a month of bad experience ruin what has gone on here the last nine years,” Gentry said. “I love this place, I love everything about it. The Suns organization has been great to me — for the most part — and I will…hey, I have nothing but praise for the things that they’ve afforded me and my coaching career, so if anybody down there wants to take a shot at me then the people that are left down there, so be it.”