Suns replacing Porter with Gentry

PHOENIX – Phoenix Suns officials finalized a deal with Alvin Gentry on Sunday afternoon to replace Terry Porter as head coach, an NBA source with knowledge of the talks said.

Gentry, the Suns’ lead assistant who has previously been a head coach with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat, will take over for at least the remainder of the season.

The Suns expect to formally announce the coaching change Monday.

Porter was hired eight months ago after friction between previous coach Mike D’Antoni and Suns GM Steve Kerr led D’Antoni to take the New York Knicks’ job. Suns management tasked Porter with improving the team’s defense and holding the younger players, most notably Amare Stoudemire, more accountable, but Porter’s rigid style quickly alienated most of the locker room.

Porter also shifted the team’s run-and-fun offense toward center Shaquille O’Neal, marginalizing the effectiveness of point guard Steve Nash. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, two cornerstones of D’Antoni’s system, chafed under Porter and were traded in December to the Charlotte Bobcats for Jason Richardson.

Porter eventually loosened the reins on the Suns’ offense, but the team didn’t show much improvement, losing eight of its last 13 games heading into the All-Star break.

The day after a loss to the Chicago Bulls two weeks ago, Grant Hill gave an impassioned talk to his teammates, urging them to have fun and play for each other. According to a Suns source, Porter then walked into the locker room and spent the next two-plus hours showing the players everything they had done wrong in the game.

“That just drained all the energy from the room,” said the source. “You could see it on everyone’s face.”

Porter had two more guaranteed seasons on his contract worth $2 million each.

Johnny Ludden is the NBA editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Johnny a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Feb 15, 2009