Last week the Phoenix Suns made a surprising move. They fired head coach Alvin Gentry. That wasn’t the surprising part though. The Suns were playing like one of the worst teams in the NBA, they are headed for the Draft Lottery again and it seemed like there was a fracture in the organization. It was the interim hire of Lindsey Hunter that raised eyebrows. The Suns already had a pair of candidates who were looked at as potential future head coaches in Dan Majerle and Elston Turner. That’s what they were groomed for. They had paid their dues as assistants but it was Hunter who got the interim job. Hunter didn’t take the normal path to coaching in the NBA. He got his start in player development and now he will go from that to interim head coach. It will be a chance for Hunter to validate the organization’s decision and show that he is ready for the leap. Lindsey Hunter joined KTAR in Phoenix with Doug and Wolf to talk about whether he was surprised to be named interim head coach, if he looks at himself as an interim coach or the head coach of the Suns, why he thinks he got the job, on Dan Majerle and Elston Turner not being decided about their futures with the team, what he thinks needs to be fixed first, and if he thought when he came to Phoenix being a head coach was in his near future.
Whether he was surprised to be named interim head coach:
“I was because of the way everything happened. No one knew until the morning of so it was really, really different but I was really surprised.”
If he looks at himself as an interim coach or the head coach of the Suns:
“Of course you have to have the confidence that you are the guy going forward regardless of what happens after this. I’m going to do and put forth the best possible effort that I can to show them that I deserve to be the guy going forward, but all you can really do is work as hard as you can right now and worry about what is going on right now and anything in the future will take care of itself.”
Why do you think you got the job?
“I feel like I was what they were looking for at this particular time. I think me having a great interview and being a finalist in the Orlando situation last summer kind of validated that I was a serious candidate for that and being offered other positions around the NBA so I had some value. At the time being a player development coach I really, really enjoyed that and it was really great working with the guys on the floor and I’m a gym rat. I love being in the gym and on the floor and I really missed that part of it. I think all of those things had something to do with me being selected for the position.”
Whether he has an issue with Dan Majerle and Elston Turner still being undecided about their futures:
“No, no. I would be wrong to pass judgement like that because I don’t know their situations totally and I’m sure there was disappointment in those guys because they didn’t get the position which is totally understandable. I wouldn’t say that I would have any type of feeling negatively towards those guys because they’re human beings just like me. They have to do what they have to do for themselves and I understand that. I can’t worry about that. I have to worry about this team and the guys here.”
On the first thing that needs to be fixed:
“Every day we have to establish a culture and an identity which takes some time but you have to start with simple things like ‘we are going to complete every play we start, we’re going to do things the right way, we’re not going to shortcut things’ and you slowly but surely build that culture and frame of minds with guys. Teaching guys how to practice winning habits and it takes time for all of that to happen.”
If he thought when he came to Phoenix that being a head coach was in his future:
“No, because Coach Gentry was already here. I knew my position and what was expected of me and in situations like that you do your job. Of course everyone aspires to be at the top of their field and I’ve always wanted to be in this position but you do your job to the best of your ability and try to perfect what you’re doing and people recognize that. Then when your time comes you will get your opportunity. I’ve always felt like that and I was raised like that by my father and my wife and I talk about having patience. If it’s meant for you then it will happen for you. it doesn’t matter if you want it today, it may not happen today. You just have to continue to prepare yourself and be ready when it does happen. It was totally unexpected and you never know but you always have to be prepared.”