By Ben Golliver
The Suns and coach Alvin Gentry have mutually agreed to part ways, making Gentry the fourth coach to lose his job this season after Mike Brown, Avery Johnson and Scott Skiles. The Suns have the worst record in the Western Conference at 13-28.
MyFoxPhoenix.com and the Arizona Republic first reported the move, which was announced by the Suns on Friday. An interim coach has not yet been named but a team release said that should happen in the next 24-to-48 hours. Yahoo! Sports reports that assistant coaches Elston Turner and Lindsey Hunter are the "top candidates" to step in for the rest of the season.
"Alvin’s hard work, dedication and coaching ability over the last nine years have been an important part of the success of our organization," said Suns owner Robert Sarver. "These partings are never easy but are, unfortunately, part of the business of professional sports. I wish nothing but the best for Alvin and his family."
Gentry, who was in the final year of his current contract, received a "vote of confidence" from Sarver in early December after a slow start and amid reports of a "toxic" locker room atmosphere and public complaints from Marcin Gortat about the team's offense. Suns management publicly stated that no extension for Gentry would be discussed until following the 2012-13 season, making his future uncertain. Prior to the season, Gentry was one of four names identified by The Point Forward as candidates to be the first NBA coach fired.
"All of us, including Alvin, realized that the pieces weren’t fitting," Suns president Lon Babby said. "To be sure, integrating nine new players was a challenge. Alvin is a good coach and a good person. I wish him the best. As for us, we will remain focused on moving this team forward."
Gentry took over in Phoenix for the fired Terry Porter during the 2008-09 season and accumulated a 158-144 (.523) record. He led the Suns to one playoff appearance, when Phoenix was eliminated in the Western Conference finals by the Lakers in 2009-10.
"After nine years with the Suns, the organization and I came to a mutual agreement to go in different directions," Gentry said. "I have the utmost respect for Robert and what he’s done with the organization. It’s unfortunate that I was unable to accomplish what I set out to do here."
Suns center Channing Frye tweeted Friday that he was sad to see Gentry go.
"I have grown so much playing under Alvin Gentry," Frye said. "I wish him and his family the best. He's a great coach and a better man." Gentry, 58, holds a career coaching record of 335-370 (.475) during a career that has seen him lead the Heat, Pistons, Clippers and Suns.