Suns "A National Joke" After Coaching Change, Reported GM-Player Altercation
In light of the Suns replacing coach Alvin Gentry with interim coach Lindsey Hunter, and a reported altercation between team GM Lance Blanks and C Jermaine O’Neal on Monday, the franchise has “become a national joke,” according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Suns “aren’t talented enough to win games” and they are one of the few organizations that can "make the naming of an interim coach a public relations nightmare.” Boivin asks, “What did owner Robert Sarver expect?” Sarver hired Blanks and President Lon Babby, who “never had held those positions before,” as Babby was an agent and Blanks an Assistant GM. That inexperience combined with an owner who "had been a wildly successful businessman but never in the sports arena and you have a concoction that is a recipe for failure” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/23). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley wrote under the header, “Lindsey Hunter Hire Another Public Relations Disaster For Bumbling Phoenix Suns.” When Dan Majerle “refused to serve as an assistant coach under recently-promoted Lindsey Hunter, red flags returned to Planet Orange.” Majerle's exit "says many alarming things about the direction of this organization.” The perception of the Suns is "near an all-time low” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/22). The AP’s Bob Baum wrote the Suns are “getting hammered on local radio talk shows, in part because of the extreme popularity of Gentry, in part because of the hiring of the inexperienced and only recently arrived Hunter, and in part because fans compare the troubled franchise to the one that [former Suns GM] Jerry Colangelo operated for so many years, usually as a winner” (AP, 1/22).
FIGHT CLUB? CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger cited sources as saying that Blanks and O'Neal were “involved in a heated, expletive-filled argument after interim coach Lindsey Hunter's first practice Monday.” A source said it was a "clearing of the air." But Berger wrote there are "many issues remaining for the Suns to clear up before Hunter makes his coaching debut" tonight against the Kings (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/22).