The 2012-13 Phoenix Suns season in the post-Steve Nash era has been a disaster. Although Phoenix did add Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola, the Suns have stumbled to a 13-28 start to the season, which is the worst record in the Western Conference.
Despite receiving a vote of confidence from Suns’ owner Robert Sarver in December (according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard), head coach Alvin Gentry was fired following a Jan. 17 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns needed to hire an interim head coach for the remainder of the season, but management’s decision has placed even more strain on a franchise in complete disarray.
Instead of hiring Elston Turner, the lead coaching assistant under Gentry, or “Thunder” Dan Majerle, who had been on the coaching staff for the past five years, Suns’ management decided to hire Lindsey Hunter.
Hunter, who spent 17 years playing in the NBA and has zero coaching experience, was brought in to be the team’s player development director prior to the 2012-13 season.
As a prudent analogy, let’s say that you have been working at a company for the past five years. Someone you grew to respect as the right-hand man underneath your boss has been with the company for two years. During that time, he has been interviewed for numerous head positions around the country.
There’s a new guy that you’re aware of within the company, but he’s working in a different department. While this new guy has done a good job, he hasn’t done anything that would make him more qualified (or even as qualified) for a promotion as you or your co-worker.
One thing leads to another and your boss gets fired. You think that you have a legitimate shot at the promotion. Your co-workers like and respect you, and citizens with stock in the company know all the positives you’ve provided the company over the years. You’d certainly be disappointed if you didn’t get the promotion, but you’d stick around if the former boss’s right-hand man got the job, because logically he’s second in line.
Now imagine the CEO of said company came in and hired that new guy who has been around for only a matter of months. Are you going to be ticked off? No, you’re going to be furious.
Not only is this CEO a bumbling fool for hiring someone less qualified, but he also justifies his decision by saying the company needed “a jolt” (h/t Dave Dulberg of Arizonasports.com). In the words of Frank Costanza, “What the hell does that mean?”
On the most basic level, that’s exactly what just happened to Majerle (the five-year coaching vet) and Turner (the coach's second in command). Turner and Majerle are both more qualified for the interim job than Hunter, yet management (owner Robert Sarver, president of basketball operations Lon Babby and general manager Lance Blanks) decided to promote a guy with no coaching experience.
Considering that interim jobs are rarely retained, it would make sense for the Suns to promote Majerle or Turner so they could use the remainder of the season as a tryout of sorts for head coaching vacancies elsewhere. Both mean vastly more to this franchise than Hunter does, especially Majerle, who was a fan favorite in Phoenix during his playing days. Why not honor them with the head coaching vacancy?
As it stands, Majerle has resigned from his coaching duties, according to Suns beat writer Paul Coro. So now management has yet another basketball mind to replace.
Although no decision has been officially made yet, Turner missed a third consecutive practice under coach Hunter, according to Paul Coro via Twitter.
Lead assistant Elston Turner didn't attend a 3rd consecutive #Suns practice. He was to meet w/Blanks today. Majerle already has parted ways.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) January 22, 2013
There’s a chance that Turner will join Majerle and resign as well, which would leave yet another hole on the coaching staff.
On top of fallout started within the coaching staff, players have also voiced their frustrations.
Suns GM Lance Blanks and center Jermaine O'Neal engaged in a loud, expletive-laced confrontation on Monday, league sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 22, 2013
Tensions are clearly running high due to this season's seemingly endless frustrations.
In addition to Jermaine O'Neal's reported verbal altercation with general manager Lance Blanks, two Suns' guards are trying to make the best of a bad situation.
According to an article by Paul Coro, one of the main reasons why Dragic decided to re-sign with the Suns this past offseason was the presence of coach Gentry, "who instilled confidence in (Dragic) after replacing (former Suns' coach) Terry Porter."
"In every bad situation there is something good. I don't want to only look on the bad side," Dragic said according to Coro.
Suns guard Sebastian Telfair was far more blunt with his response to Gentry's firing.
"It sucks [...] It sucks that he had to take the fall for that," Telfair said according to the Coro article.
Hunter spent time working with rookie point guard Kendall Marshall during his stint in player development, so there has been speculation that Telfair will lose court time moving forward.
This season's embarrassing debacle has made the Suns one of the league's laughing stocks. It has been a devastating fall from grace for a team that was a championship contender mere seasons ago.
The silver lining is high draft picks and cap space for the Suns moving forward, but if management continues making suspect decisions, there won't be any fans left to enjoy a rise from the ashes (if that ever happens).