Kerr: Wants D'Antoni back despite another playoff exit Print
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Wednesday, 30 April 2008 12:06
NBA Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -The Phoenix Suns' window of opportunity to win an NBA title under coach Mike D'Antoni may have slammed shut with their first-round playoff loss to San Antonio.
General manager Steve Kerr acknowledged differences with the coach but insisted on Wednesday he wants D'Antoni back for a fifth season with the Suns. He said he and owner Robert Sarver would meet with the coach in the next few days.
``I'd like to see him back,'' Kerr said. ``I'd like to see us working together. It's been well documented we have some different ideas and different approaches. And what we have to do is talk and communicate and make sure we can get on the same page in terms of how this organization can get better, how this team can get better.''
D'Antoni, though, might not want to make the changes Kerr believes are needed, whether they be expanding his rotation, changing his defensive scheme or altering his staff.
D'Antoni has two years worth $8.5 million on his contract. He won the coach of the year award in 2005 and has a 232-96 record over the past four regular seasons. But the teams have never made it to the NBA Finals, losing in the playoffs three times to San Antonio and once to Dallas.
The usually accessible and talkative D'Antoni, the NBA's coach of the year in 2005 with a 232-96 record over the last four regular seasons, spoke only briefly with reporters.
He didn't say yes or no when asked if he wanted to return.
``I think we've just got to talk and I'm not going to be able to sit here and explain, guys,'' he said. ``I hate to be abrupt but we'll all sit down and talk and evaluate everything and see where we are. I'd love to go on but I'll keep talking and kill myself.''
Kerr, a close friend of Sarver and part of five title teams in his 15-year NBA veteran, was hired as vice president of basketball operations and general manager last June. He pulled the trigger on the stunning February trade that brought Shaquille O'Neal from the Miami Heat in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.
The arrival of O'Neal was supposed to make the Suns tougher, especially in a matchup with the Spurs, but it also meant the end of the freewheeling, ultra up-tempo Suns style that had endeared the team to fans around the NBA.
There had to be an adjustment playing with a 7-foot-1, 325-pound player in the middle.
``We were a team that was kind of thrown together midway through the season,'' Phoenix's Raja Bell said. ``That's not an excuse but it's a fact, and we need some more time.''
Bell praised D'Antoni's style.
``I think Mike's strength is having played and knowing how to give people space,'' Bell said, ``not micromanaging, and the freedom to kind of explore your game and grow as a player. I've seen a lot of players do it under Mike, me included.''
No one is a bigger supporter of D'Antoni than Steve Nash, a two-time MVP in his four seasons with the coach.
``I think Mike has been outstanding here,'' Nash said, ``and I think that once he sits down and talks with management, they can come sort of consensus on how they can move forward together. Obviously, that's what I hope for. I would imagine that's what's going to happen.''
Nash said he had not told Kerr specifically about his feelings.
``He knows I love Mike and want him back,'' Nash said, ``but we haven't had a huge talk about it yet.''
O'Neal said the Suns were victims of their own ``silly mental mistakes'' in losing to the Spurs 4-1.
The big guy gave D'Antoni a vote of confidence.
``I hope he comes back,'' O'Neal said. ``I've played for a couple of Hall of Fame coaches, and he actually has what it takes to get the job done. It's our job as players to make him look good.''
Nash said the team's entire season hinged on the team's play in Game 1 in San Antonio, where they lost in double overtime after seemingly having the game won on several occasions.
``The bottom line is we blew Game 1,'' Nash said. ``We could have won Game 1 and everyone would have been in love with Mike and the series might be a lot different.''
Amare Stoudemire's already powerful game grew even stronger with the arrival of O'Neal but he struggled at times against San Antonio, as did Nash.
Kerr said no one should make anything of the fact that Stoudemire used the past tense in talking about D'Antoni on Wednesday.
``Coach Mike was a pretty good coach when I was here,'' Stoudemire said. ``He was great as far as his practice scheduling and his offensive awareness. I think those are his strengths and I had fun playing under coach D'Antoni.''
 

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