Posted Jun 15 2010 4:12PM - Updated Jun 16 2010 1:19AM
PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Kerr won't return as general manager of the Phoenix Suns, despite building a team that made a surprising run to the NBA's Western Conference finals.
Kerr said at a news conference Tuesday that the decision was a personal one. He insisted that reports of a contract disagreement with owner Robert Sarver were untrue.
"This has nothing to do with money or contracts or anything like that," he said. "This is a professional and a personal decision that I'm very, very comfortable with. My family's excited about it, too."
The announcement of his departure came just 2 1/2 weeks after he expressed excitement about his future with the Suns and confidence that he and Sarver would come to an agreement on a new contract.
"It's always important to take a little down time after a season ends to let the emotion kind of simmer and make a clear-headed decision," Kerr said.
He said "a couple of opportunities" to get back into broadcasting have surfaced in the last few weeks.
Kerr was a TNT color commentator for NBA telecasts for four years before Sarver hired him three years ago. He said in an interview with The Associated Press a month ago that he sometimes longed for the simpler days behind the microphone.
Kerr, who commutes from his home in San Diego, said he would stay on the job until his contract expires at the end of June. The NBA draft is June 24.
He said he wouldn't leave if the organization wasn't in good shape.
"I wouldn't have left a year ago, where we were," he said. "But given where we are right now with a really good young base of talent, a great coaching staff, a lot of stability, a lot to be excited about in the future, I'm very comfortable making this move."
One of the hardest things, Kerr said, is leaving coach Alvin Gentry.
"There are a lot of relationships that are very important," he said. "That's a big one ... Given where we were when he took over, I feel like I owe everything to him, the job he did to resurrect this team. He's the guy who returned this team to our rightful place."
Sarver didn't attend the news conference. Rick Welts, Suns president and chief executive officer, said the owner had "a prior commitment."
The owner issued a statement thanking Kerr "for all the contributions he has made to our club during his tenure, and for helping to lay the foundation for our current and future success."
The search for Kerr's successor will include people inside and outside the organization, Welts said. In the meantime, Welts said, Gentry will take a bigger role in personnel matters.
Kerr was extremely well-liked throughout the Suns organization and there was a lot of sadness around US Airways Center on Tuesday.
"There can't be anybody more respected or better liked anywhere in the NBA than Steve Kerr," Welts said.
Kerr tried to explain why people should believe that he is leaving on his own accord.
"This is a very taxing job," he said. "My kids are 17, 15 and 12. They're only under my roof a few more years and I haven't seen a lot of them the last few years, and that's a very important factor to me. My family's always more important than my job and this is a big reason for this decision."
Yet he said he would love to get back into a front-office job sometime in the future.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "I enjoy this. It's not always easy but it's eventful and it's very challenging and I love the competition."
Kerr starred at the University of Arizona and played in the NBA for 15 years. Known for his precise long-range shooting, he was on five teams that won the championship.
His departure from the Suns comes as the team negotiates with All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, who can opt out of the last year of his contract on July 1. Stoudemire has said agent Happy Waters has developed a close relationship with Kerr.
Walters told TNT's David Aldridge by telephone that he was surprised and "disappointed" that Kerr was leaving.
"But the NBA, it's the business we're all in," he added. "There's a lot of turnover.' Walters said Tuesday evening that he had not yet heard from anyone in the Suns' organization about how discussions on a new deal for Stoudemire would proceed. Asked who would take over for Kerr, Walters said, "that's a good question ... I guess they have to figure that put and I guess I'll hear from them in the next couple of days. Amare held Steve in high regard, and so did I."
Kerr met Sarver through mutual friend Lute Olson, the Hall of Fame former coach at Arizona. Kerr helped Sarver buy the Suns from Jerry Colangelo, then was hired to run the team despite no front-office experience.
Kerr learned on the job.
Some moves worked out, such as the trade of Boris Diaw and Raja Bell to Charlotte for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley and the 2009 drafting of Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic.
Some didn't, such as the expensive experiment with Shaquille O'Neal and hiring of Terry Porter as coach.
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni left after the 2008 season, taking the same job with the New York Knicks after what were described as philosophical differences. Kerr said he simply wanted D'Antoni to emphasize a little defense and use more, preferably younger, players.
Last season's team was predicted to barely make the playoffs, at best. Instead, the Suns went 54-28 and were the No. 3 seed in the West. Phoenix beat Portland in six games in the first round, then swept longtime nemesis San Antonio in four before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the Western Conference finals.
"This is a huge roller-coaster ride, this job, the emotional swings," Kerr said. "There's nothing like when you're up on top of the mountain, and there's nothing worse than being on the bottom. The last two years, I feel like I've much seen it all. Last year was miserable, this year was euphoric."
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