GENTRY RETURNS TO PHOENIX, COACHES SECOND HALF
PHOENIX – There was something poetic about Associate Head Coach Alvin Gentry coaching the final half of the Clippers’ 102-96 preseason victory over his former team in place of Doc Rivers.
Gentry, 58, made his return to U.S. Airways Center for the first time since he roamed the sidelines for the Suns. And after Rivers did not return to the court to coach the second half because he wasn’t feeling well, Gentry took over.
It was sort of a case of coming full circle. Gentry was back where he spent nine seasons, nearly five as head coach, working on the opposite bench for a franchise in the Clippers that 22 years ago gave him one of his first assistant coaching jobs in the NBA.
The chance to work alongside Rivers, who he knew through mutual friends including former Clippers head coach Larry Brown, and return to Los Angeles were what piqued Gentry’s interest after he mutually parted ways with the Suns in January 2013.
“Obviously, I think he’s one of the most well respected guys in the league,” Gentry said of Rivers prior to tipoff. “I think he’s an unbelievable communicator. I think he gets the respect from the players because of what he’s done as a coach and what he’s done as a player. And he’s just a really good person.
“If you talk to players, they’d say he’s the type of guy they love playing for because he’s fair and he’s tough and he pushes them to the limit. He has one goal in mind and that’s to win a championship. Being a good team, he doesn’t have any interest in that at all. He wants to be great and he wants to win a championship. And I think as a coach those are the type of people you want to work for.”
So far, the paring of Rivers and Gentry has worked out well. Gentry’s been predominantly charged with heading the offense for a team that boasts a bevy of weapons, including what Gentry called the “best point guard in the NBA” and its “two most athletic big men.”
“Usually, I’ve gone back and forth,” Rivers said prior to the game in Phoenix Tuesday. “I’ll either hire a defensive guy and then try to focus on the offense, or I’ll hire an offensive guy and think defense. I thought this team needed my full attention defensively.”
In stepped one of the better offensive minds in the league, a master of fluidity and movement and teams topping 100 points or more. In seven out of his nine years as either an assistant under Mike D’Antoni or leading the Suns, his teams topped the century mark in points per game.
“He’s been absolutely wonderful,” Rivers said. “He’s good. He’s been a coach for a long time and he has a lot of knowledge. We’re using all of that knowledge and trying to put it in the same pot of gold.”
As for Gentry’s tenure in Phoenix, a place he still resides in the offseason, returning Tuesday night brought back a lot of memories.
“This is the business that I’ve chosen to be in and obviously it’s a very volatile business and it’s a tough business,” Gentry said. “I still have a lot of great friends here. My family still lives here. My kids go to school here. Obviously, I would have preferred to still be here, but that didn’t happen. You just move on and you make things work out. The toughest thing for me is that I don’t get to see my kids every day. But we make it work. It’s a short commute from here to L.A. for me coming back here. It’s worked out well. I have a lot of fond memories here. I really do.”