Early yesterday morning, the Grizzlies front office met with coach Alvin Gentry, formerly of the Pheonix Suns following this year’s collapse of a season, to discuss the opening left by Lionel Hollins. Apparently, they came away extremely impressed and interested:
Grizzlies met yesterday with former Suns coach Alvin Gentry about head coaching vacancy and came away extremely impressed, source says.
— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) June 15, 2013
Now, what’s still unclear is whether the office was “impressed” because they didn’t expect much out of Gentry and then he came in and showed competency, or if the office was impressed because he actually came off as smarter and more hirable than the other coaching options.
The sense of surprise that seems to be permeating the whole Gentry discussion is very strange to me. In the above link, it’s mentioned that Gentry is perhaps a “budget” option, since he only has a 335-370 record. The fact is that Gentry is — and as far as I can tell always has been — a very smart, good coach, who for a while was stuck with some very bad teams.
Remember, that just last season, in 2011-2012, the Suns were in 8th seed contention. Remember, then, that the Suns had Steve Nash, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye I guess, and…no one else. Jared Dudley, maybe? Shannon Brown? How on earth did this team beat out the Kyle Lowry-Kevin Martin-Luis Scola-Chandler Parsons Houston Rockets or compete with the Al Jefferson-Paul Milsap-Gordon Hayward Jazz?
Alvin Gentry was a big reason.
Really, Gentry has always been popular with the beat writers and analysts. A lot of fans have been saying things like this, mostly in response to Gentry’s record as coach:
Wait…so you would fire Lionel Hollins…for Alvin Gentry? Thank goodness I’m not a Memphis fan.
— Rashad M. (@jeff3006) June 13, 2013
The analysts, meanwhile, have been saying this:
Local reports that Gentry is out in Phoenix. Current roster is a mess, regardless of coach. Gentry is a good guy + solid coach.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 18, 2013
I really like the idea of Alvin Gentry coaching the Grizzlies. I also like the idea of Gentry coaching just about anybody.
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) June 15, 2013
In many ways, he’s actually a lot like Hollins; he has a very solid understanding of the ways he can use his players (i.e. ways to space the floor, like putting Marc at the elbow, etc.) to maximize their effectiveness. Unlike Hollins, this isn’t just a theoretical, X and O’s understanding: he memorizes and totally internalizes the exact numbers he needs to know how well his team is performing, and who needs to do what.
But also like Hollins, Gentry has the tendency to attribute a lot of the technical parts of basketball, and a lot of the success of players and coaches, to things like “determination” and “effort” and “heart.” Which is certainly not all bad, as Daniel Nicks pointed out in the podcast, players often need some of that to ensure their success on the court.
Gentry’s deference to making sure that numbers back up the instincts, and his knowledge of when “coach-speak” is valuable to players and when he needs to be watching what exactly is going on on the court, may make him an even better coach than Hollins was for the future of the Grizzlies, despite his previous record.
Though it’s certainly hard to know for sure.
That said, precisely because Gentry is so similar to Hollins, what this is really going to come down to is whether or not Gentry is more communicative with the front office than Hollins. The Hollins fallout occurred precisely because he wanted to just do his job, and if the front office made changes, then so be it. Meanwhile, the front office wanted a partner.
If Gentry can be that partner, then he might be the man for the Grizzlies.