Arizona's First Political Blog
E-mail Anonymous Mike at zonitics4-at-yahoo.com
By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Steve Kerr and the Taking of Vienna
I know the NBA is dead to me but this is just too good pass up...
For most of the past 4 seasons, the Phoenix Suns had been playing an up-tempo form of basketball; "seven seconds or less" to get up a shot. It was fun to watch, the Suns tasted success, and all were happy.
However as any kid who ever played organized basketball on the East Coast could tell you, such an approach doesn't win championships. It seemed every kid I ran into heard the same lecture as I did from my coach, the Denver Nuggets of the late 70s and early 80s were fun to watch but they weren't going to win titles The Nuggets with Issel and English were an early forerunner of the approach the Suns took, fast-paced offense with little desire to go into the half-court, no defense, and most importantly no championships.
This time last year, that's where the Suns were going. Under Coach D'Antoni, the Suns were successful but there was no way they were getting past the conference championship, let alone taking the title. Suns GM Steve Kerr had one of three choices to make: ride the current approach and taste regular season success but another early playoff exit as the window on the team closed, get on with blowing-up the team and rebuild a possible NBA championship from scratch, or try to tinker with the current approach by adding some muscle and defense in order to stretch the current window another year or two.
As we know he went with option 3, trading Marion for Shaq in order to position the Suns with enough muscle and toughness to get the remaining nucleus posied for a championship run. It didn't work as the Suns went out of the playoffs early. It then seemed Kerr went to option 2 by letting D'Antoni and his run-and-gun approach go to New York and hiring a more deliberate, defensive-minded coach in Terry Porter.
The problem was the team's personnel was still built around D'Antoni's system. Steve Nash, while entertaining on the break, cannot defend a wet noodle at the other end. Amare's game is more focused on space and found it hard to operate in the new, more deliberate half-court game with Shaq taking up space in the paint. So with personnel mismatched to the coach's style, you figure something had to give and given that the coach was new, you figured it would be the personnel; the front office would show some patience with the team and let Porter have a chance to work through the growing pains.
So here's the feckless part...
Steve Kerr, less than a year after doing one U-turn with the team turned around and executed another U-turn instead. The players revolted against Porter and he was fired, to be replaced on an interim basis with Alvin Gentry who was to reimplement the more wide-open style Kerr had abandoned and try to salvage the season. In turn, there were strong rumors that the Suns were heavily involved in trade talks right before the deadline but not to get tougher and more defense-oriented in order to continue building for a championship. The strongest rumor was that the Suns were going to deal Shaq, who they got a year ago for his toughness and defense. In fact the word is the only reason the trade with Cleveland didn't go through was that the Suns wanted Szczerbiak whose contracted expired this year as opposed to Ben Wallace whose contract expire next year.
There's an old saying, attributed to Napoleon that went something like "If you are going to take Vienna, take Vienna." In other words the worst thing is to do is start do something and then change your mind midway through the process and try to race back to the status quo ante. If Kerr kept the team together for another year and let it flop in the first round in the playoffs again, he would have had the juice to blow up the team and rebuild in the mold he wanted. If Kerr wanted to rebuild the team around the toughness/defense angle, then he should have known that there would be teething problems and been willing to suffer through them.
No, instead he blew up the exciting "seven seconds or less" and then when that decision proved unpopular and the team struggled for half the season he chickened out.