As Helen Keller once wrote:
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
The latter part of that quote doesn't figure to be a problem for Alvin Gentry. He officially parted ways with the Phoenix Suns Friday morning, but may well wind up with some old friends in a much more glamorous organization before too long (per Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic):
Alvin Gentry gets paid, escapes the season's misery & knows Mike D'Antoni, one of his best friends, wants him on next season's Lakers staff.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) January 18, 2013
Indeed, it's entirely plausible that Gentry will return to the City of Angels sooner rather than later—this time with the Los Angeles Lakers as opposed to last time, when he coached the then-still-lowly Los Angeles Clippers for the better part of three seasons.
Gentry was fired 58 games into the 2002-03 NBA season after compiling an overall record of 89-133.
He fared far better in Phoenix after taking over in 2009 for Terry Porter, who, in turn, had been hired in 2008 after D'Antoni fled for greener pastures with the New York Knicks. One playoff berth in three-and-a-half seasons may not seem like much, but in that one trip, Gentry's Suns nearly knocked the eventual champion Lakers out of the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
Not that the Suns brass did Gentry any favors along the way. The front office, at the directive of notoriously thrifty owner Robert Sarver, allowed the talent surrounding Steve Nash to drain out across the Association, slowly but surely, until Nash himself became expendable this past summer.
Now, Nash is running some semblance of D'Antoni's famed spread pick-and-roll offense in L.A. and it stands to reason that more of the old Suns band could get back together over the coming summer.
Mike D's current staff of assistants is comprised almost exclusively of guys hired by Mike Brown, who was deposed just five games into the 2012-13 campaign.
The lone exception? Dan D'Antoni, Mike's older brother and an assistant of his during previous stints with the Suns and Knicks.
Of those holdovers currently serving under D'Antoni, Bernie Bickerstaff and Eddie Jordan would appear to be the most expendable.
Bickerstaff spent five games as the interim coach following Brown's early-season ouster. A longtime head coach himself, Bickerstaff was one of Brown's first mentors, having given the Lakers ex his first NBA assistant gig with the Washington Wizards in 1997.
He will turn 69 in February and seems unlikely to stick around beyond this season now that his protege is no longer around.
Jordan, meanwhile, was brought on for the express purpose of teaching and installing elements of the Princeton offense in LA. That system (and the time and effort required to learn it) proved to be a poor fit for an impatient Lakers squad and was cited by general manager Mitch Kupchak as one of the reasons for Brown's firing back in November.
Unless D'Antoni has any desire to reboot Brown's failed experiment, Jordan probably wouldn't serve much of a purpose in LA going forward.
As for the other three coaches still on staff, Chuck Person is in charge of the Lakers' shooting (LA is 13th in three-point percentage and 29th in free-throw percentage), Darvin Ham spends much of his time and energy with the team's frontcourt players, and Steve Clifford, a highly regarded defensive guru (the Lakers rank 17th in defensive efficiency), maintains close ties with Dwight Howard dating back to their days with the Orlando Magic.
In any case, there should be at least one open seat on the bench next to the D'Antoni brothers prior to the 2013-14 season. And at this point, Gentry seems like the most logical choice to fill it. He was an assistant under Mike D for five seasons in Phoenix, coached Nash and is eminently familiar with the basketball landscape in LA.
Now that he's closed the door on the Suns (or is it the other way around?), Gentry can walk freely through another, this one painted purple and gold.
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