Kerr, Suns plan to take time in finding replacement for D'Antoni
PHOENIX -- There is "no big rush" to hire a new coach for the Phoenix Suns, the team's general manager said Monday.
Steve Kerr said he plans a thorough search that includes people with teams still in the NBA playoffs.
"We're going to make sure we cover our bases," he said. "There's not a huge rush because we're not one of five or six teams out there looking for someone, so we don't feel like we're competing with other people."
The Suns are looking for a coach in the offseason for the first time in two decades after Mike D'Antoni left to become coach of the New York Knicks. D'Antoni's departure followed philosophical differences with Kerr, who took over as GM a year ago.
Kerr said he and owner Robert Sarver wanted D'Antoni to stay, but the coach balked at some of the changes the general manager wanted. Those reportedly included a bigger emphasis on defense, giving playing time to some younger players and perhaps altering his staff.
But Kerr wants no major alteration in the Suns' style.
"Our personnel is geared toward getting out and running," he said. "It's exciting basketball. I believe in it. I just think we need to be more balanced, though. We have to be better at the other end of the court as well, so I'll be looking for someone who shares that vision."
D'Antoni resigned with two years and $8.5 million remaining on his Suns contract. He compiled a 232-96 record over the last four full seasons, but the team could never make it to the NBA finals. Three times the Suns were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs.
"Mike had great success here and did a really good job," Kerr said. "The players should appreciate what he's done and I appreciate what he's done, but for all the different circumstances and reasons, he's moving on and we're moving on."
The Suns' five-game loss to San Antonio in the first round this year reinforced many of Kerr's feelings about the need for an added emphasis on defense. But D'Antoni's easygoing, funny and highly personable demeanor masks an intense competitiveness and more than a little stubbornness.
That helped lead to his falling out with the Suns, and when D'Antoni asked for permission to talk with other teams, it brought an end to his highly entertaining era.
Kerr has a list of prospects and was setting up interviews, but wouldn't say how many names were involved, let alone who they are. He acknowledged it could take an experienced coach to best deal with the team.
"We have a veteran team and we have a chance to win big next year," Kerr said. "Maybe it would be different if we were a young team trying to build for the future or whatever, but with that said, whoever stands out, stands out."
The coach will have to coexist with Shaquille O'Neal, something others in that position occasionally have struggled with.
"I think you need somebody with a presence, somebody the guys are going to respect," Kerr said. "That's true with everybody, but particularly a guy like Shaq who had a big presence and a big personality and has won championships."
Because there are candidates still involved in the playoffs, it could be several weeks before someone is hired.
"At the same time, if someone jumps out at us immediately, this could happen quicker than we think," Kerr said, "but the point of being methodical is being thorough."
Rather than lament the end of the D'Antoni era, Kerr said people should be excited about "the chance to improve our team."
With the stunning trade of Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for O'Neal, and now the drawn-out departure of a coach who won at least 54 games in each of the last four seasons, it's been a tumultuous first year on the job for Kerr.
The 15-year NBA veteran and former University of Arizona standout left a comfortable job in TV to take the Suns' job.
"I certainly didn't expect this amount of change in one year, but I also understand that's the way the league works," he said. "Things are fluid. They change pretty quickly."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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