Sunny day for Porter: Phoenix rolls out new coach
One of the first questions at Porter's introductory news conference on Monday came from Phil Gordon, a Suns fan who also happens to be the mayor of Phoenix.
"Coach, are we going to have a world champion team this year?" Gordon asked.
As many in the US Airways Center practice court laughed, general manager Steve Kerr turned to Porter and said, "The chair's hot already, isn't it?"
Gordon's question has dogged the Suns throughout their 40-year history. Though they have been among the NBA's most successful franchises -- the Suns' .558 winning percentage ranks fourth in the league -- the Suns have not won a title.
After failing to bring home a trophy with Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style, the Suns hope the 45-year-old Porter will provide a new approach, combining a fastbreak offense with a stronger emphasis on defense.
After reaching the Western Conference finals in 2005 and 2006, Phoenix was eliminated in the second round in 2007 and made a first-round exit this spring. But Porter embraced the high expectations.
"I think it is a championship-caliber team," said Porter, who reportedly agreed to a three-year contract worth about $7 million. "I think they have some pieces in place that have obviously competed at that level over the last four years."
Porter comes to the Suns from the Detroit Pistons, where he served as an assistant coach. His hiring ends a monthlong search for a successor to D'Antoni, who left last month to coach the New York Knicks.
Under D'Antoni, the Suns employed an attack predicated on firing shots in seven seconds or less, a style that won many admirers. But the Suns' inability to play consistent defense haunted them, especially in the playoffs.
Kerr said he believes Porter will help toughen the Suns' defense without sacrificing their appealing offense.
"Obviously, there will be differences and there will be nuances," Kerr said. "But the key for us was having somebody who would be balanced on both sides of the ball, who wanted to continue to push the ball and maintain our up-tempo style but could also help us come in and improve defensively. That's one of the reasons we felt like he was the right fit."
Porter went 71-93 (.433) as Milwaukee's head coach from 2003-05, leading the Bucks into the playoffs in his first year. The Bucks led the Eastern Conference in scoring in 2003-04, averaging 98 points per game while conceding 97.
Porter promised to shore up Phoenix's defense, and he said it would begin on the practice floor.
"I will be hands-on when it comes to the defense," Porter said. "When you talk about defense, there's got to be a desire there, and there's got to be a lot of repetition."
The 6-foot-3 Porter played guard in the NBA for 17 seasons, retiring with 15,586 points after the 2001-02 season. Kerr teamed with Porter in San Antonio in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, and the two were offseason golf partners.
But Kerr stressed that he hadn't turned to Porter because he's a friend.
"This is more based on respect than it is on friendship," Kerr said. "You look at his career, he's always been a winner."
Porter emerged during a national search by Kerr and David Griffin, senior vice president for basketball operations. Last week, Kerr said the list had been pared to four -- Porter and assistants Elston Turner of Houston, Tyrone Corbin of Utah and Mike Budenholzer of San Antonio.
Porter was the only one of the final four with head coaching experience.
"When 'Griff' and I finished this process, we looked at each other and said, 'Terry's the guy,' " said Kerr, who will meet with Porter to name a coaching staff in the next few weeks.
Porter is the Suns' 13th coach and their seventh since 1993, when they made their last NBA Finals appearance.
Porter's predecessors also faced pressure to win an NBA title, although few heard it directly from the mayor. Porter said Gordon's question didn't faze him.
"That's just part of the community, right?" Porter said. "Everybody wants to win a championship. And there's nothing wrong with that. You have to embrace that, along with the players embracing that."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press