Suns News

Brooks Names Gentry His Coach of the Year

Brooks praised Gentry for the team's inspired play since the All-Star break.
(NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: April 19, 2012

Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks can’t vote for the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award, but if he could, he would vote for Alvin Gentry.

“Alvin has done a great job,” Brooks said before the two clubs met Wednesday night. “It’s always nice to see a guy that keeps fighting and keeps plugging away. A lot of people thought they were done, and with a week to go, they’re right there in the playoff hunt.”

If the Suns head coach isn’t voted Coach of the Year, he at least deserves consideration. As of right now, the only team that is a lock for making the playoffs that didn’t make the postseason in 2011 is the Clippers, and their improvement can largely be attributed to upgrades in personnel.

Meanwhile, Gentry lost three rotation players - including a starter – from a team that missed the playoffs a season ago, yet the Suns have an improved record and are knocking on the playoff door. And, like Brooks alluded to, this team was pronounced dead by a lot of critics at the All-Star break, only to be resuscitated back to life by Gentry and his staff.

At the All-Star break, the Suns were six games under .500. In fact, if they were to make the playoffs, they would become the first team since the 1996-97 Suns to earn a playoff berth after entering the break six or more games under .500.

Since the All-Star break, the Suns have charged to a 18-10 record. Among Western Conference teams, only San Antonio and the Lakers have a better record. Overall, only the Spurs, Lakers, Chicago Boston and Indiana own a better record since the break.

And, like Brooks mentioned, that second-half turnaround has to be commended because practice time has been so incredibly scarce. In this condensed, 66-game season, much of the coaching gets done on the fly, with very little time for preparation.

Also, consideration has to be placed on how the team has won games. Seven of the last nine times Phoenix has trailed by double digits at home, the Suns have come away with the win. Of all NBA teams, only the Clippers have more double-digit comebacks this season.

In fact, Phoenix became the only club since 1998 to win five consecutive home games in which it trailed by 10 or more points. In a season where it’s very convenient to roll over when a team is down or struggling, the Suns went the other way.

Gentry has also been masterful in adjusting to the personnel that is on the roster. The Suns head coach, who led an up-tempo team to the Western Conference Finals in 2010, altered his style this season to win in different ways and without a dominant 20-point per game scorer.

While the Suns have six players averaging in double-figures, only Marcin Gortat (15.7 ppg) is averaging more than 15 points a game. Gentry has utilized Steve Nash, the lone All-Star on the team, to find the hot hand down the stretch or when the shot clock winds down.

The team has made enormous strides in getting defensive stops at critical junctures during the game, something that wasn’t Phoenix’s hallmark in the past. With this team, Gentry has won games where the Suns have held opponents to less than 75 points.

In fact, the Suns held 10 teams under 40-percent shooting this season, something they accomplished only six times in all of 2010-11. “If you look at where (the Suns) were a month ago, it’s not easy to keep your team focused when you’re out of the playoffs by six or seven games, especially in the West,” Brooks, who won Coach of the Year in 2009-10, stated. “You usually don’t get in if you don’t have a good record as an eighth seed, and he fought and clawed and did a good job of keeping them motivated.”

And that’s really the point that is driven home about why Gentry should receive consideration for Coach of the Year. He helped engineer a run that was unusual in the NBA.

Ordinarily, most teams fold when they were where the Suns were at the All-Star break. But, the Suns were “extraordinary” in their response to a situation that was even harder to remedy in such a condensed season.

It’s just too bad Scott Brooks can’t vote.

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