Less than three weeks after the Phoenix Suns’ surprising run to the Western Conference finals, general manager Steve Kerr is parting ways with the franchise after owner Robert Sarver asked him to take a 10 percent pay cut, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Kerr’s stunning departure threatens to throw the franchise into turmoil and could hasten the departure of free-agent forward Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) this summer. Stoudemire’s agent Happy Walters met with Kerr as recently as last week to discuss his contract status, but is still waiting on a formal proposal from the team.
“Aside from the money, obviously an important factor for where Amar'e will sign is the direction of the organization, and Steve leaving signals a new direction for the Suns,” Walters told Y! Sports. “We need to see what that direction is. Amar’e has a great deal of respect for Steve, and so do I. Steve and [coach] Alvin Gentry made a great team there and now a big part of that team is gone.”
Kerr’s contract expires after the June draft, but both he and Gentry appeared to be in line for raises after the Suns’ surprising run to the conference finals. The team began the season with a modest goal of making the playoffs, but won 54 games and finally beat the San Antonio Spurs, their longtime nemesis, in the second round before taking the Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the conference finals.
Several of Kerr’s moves and draft picks factored heavily in the team’s success. After Kerr acquired Jason Richardson(notes) and Jared Dudley(notes) from the Charlotte Bobcats last season for Raja Bell(notes) and Boris Diaw(notes), both players were among the Suns’ standouts in the postseason. Center Robin Lopez(notes) and point guard Goran Dragic(notes), both taken in the 2008 draft by Kerr, showed considerable development this season.
The Arizona Republic first reported Kerr’s departure. Sarver told the newspaper that financial differences with Kerr during negotiations played only a “small part” in his exit, but team and league sources told Y! Sports that the proposed pay cut was the initial impetus for Kerr’s exit.
"It's definitely been an interesting three years for both of us and the organization," Sarver told the Arizona Republic. "Overall, I think he did a very good job to put us on solid ground with players and coaches, getting a defensive emphasis and got the ground laid on teamwork and chemistry. We're in a pretty good spot moving forward and a lot of it has to do with moves he's made. There were some good moves and bad moves, which goes with the job. But overall, I think he's done a very good job."