Alvin Gentry had a successful run with Steve Nash and the previous version of the Phoenix Suns, leading them to the 2010 Western Conference finals.
Gentry didn’t mesh quite as well with the new bunch at Planet Orange and it cost him his job.
Unable to get a revamped roster headed in the right direction, Gentry and the last-place Suns agreed to part ways on Friday, ending the five-year run of one of the franchise’s most popular coaches.
The team said an interim coach from within the organization is expected to be named in the next 24 to 48 hours.
“Alvin Gentry is a good coach and a good person,” Suns vice president of basketball operations Lon Babby said from the US Airways Center. “He was the perfect coach for our previous group. But with the current group, all of us, including Alvin himself, realized that it just wasn’t working, the pieces just weren’t fitting.”
Phoenix’s head coach since Terry Porter was fired at the All-Star break in 2009, Gentry got the Suns back to the freewheeling ways of former coach Mike D’Antoni, his one-time boss.
Led by Nash, a two-time league MVP, the fast-paced style worked early on, with the Suns going 54-28 and reaching the Western Conference finals in Gentry’s first full season as coach.
After that, Phoenix had mixed results, struggling to find a go-to scorer when power forward Amar’e Stoudemire turned down a deal to return to the desert and signed with the New York Knicks.
The Suns underwent a complete overhaul over the summer, when Nash went to the rival Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal, All-Star forward Grant Hill left for the Clippers and nine new players were added to the roster.
The new-look Suns struggled from the start and went into a deeper tailspin over the past month or so, losing 13 of 15 and four straight at home. Their 13-28 record is the worst in the Western Conference and leaves them 18½ games behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division heading into Friday’s games.
After a 98-94 loss to Milwaukee on Thursday night, one that ended the Bucks’ 24-game losing streak in Phoenix, Gentry met with Babby and Suns managing partner Robert Sarver, coming to the conclusion that his tenure in the desert should end.
Gentry went 158-144 during his stint with the Suns.
“After nine years with the Suns, the organization and I came to a mutual agreement to go in different directions,” Gentry said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Robert and what he’s done with the organization. It’s unfortunate that I was unable to accomplish what I set out to do here.”
Gentry, who was in the final year of his contract, has been in coaching for three decades, including stints as head coach of the Detroit Pistons, Clippers and Miami Heat.
He came to the Suns as an assistant to D’Antoni and stayed on Porter’s staff when D’Antoni left for the Knicks. Gentry was named interim coach when Porter was fired and stayed on as the permanent head coach.
He had some success with the up-tempo style D’Antoni had championed, but the Suns lacked a true scorer and struggled defensively, missing the playoffs the previous two seasons.
When Phoenix opted not to sign Nash with an eye toward rebuilding, Babby and general manager Lance Blanks blew up its roster. Gentry continuously tried new lineups to find a spark, but nothing seemed to work as crowds at the once boisterous US Airways Center started to dwindle.
Gentry recently said it might be better for the team to turn to its younger players and look toward the future, but now it will be without him at the helm.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t winning enough games so much as a feel that we weren’t progressing, that we were regressing,” Babby said. “We can’t have that. We’ve got to have our closure moving forward. We didn’t feel like we were moving forward and I don’t think Alvin felt like we were moving forward.”
The Suns don’t play again until Wednesday, when they’re at Sacramento.