Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Updated: April 30, 3:11 PM ET
Kerr refutes report saying D'Antoni, Suns might part ways
ESPN.com news services
Despite averaging 58 regular-season wins the past four seasons, Mike D'Antoni might be out as Phoenix Suns coach.
An SI.com report on Tuesday night said the coach will not return after his team was eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in five games in their best-of-7 first-round playoff series. D'Antoni has two years and $8.5 million left on his contract.
Suns general manager Steve Kerr denied the report, Arizona Republic reporter Paul Coro said Wednesday morning on ESPN's "First Take."
"I talked to Steve Kerr this morning and he also asked Mike D'Antoni about that story last night and he denied it," Coro said. "He said Mike D'Antoni is still their coach and he's done a great job the last four years.
"They obviously have some things they might want to go over, philosophical differences and such. But Mike D'Antoni is still the coach."
The Republic confirmed part of a recent Sports Illustrated article which chronicled a confrontation between D'Antoni and Kerr.
In a November conversation, Kerr reportedly suggested that the Suns run more post-up plays for forward Amare Stoudemire. D'Antoni objected, and a shouting match ended with the coach telling the GM not to advise him "how to coach offense."
That jibes with Tuesday's SI.com report which cites sources within the organization saying that D'Antoni does not feel he has the support of owner Robert Sarver or Kerr, who took over as GM last June.
While the Web site did not say that D'Antoni leaving the Suns is imminent, it did speculate that he would not be discouraged from pursuing opportunities with the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks, among other teams.
D'Antoni wouldn't be the only successful coach on the hot seat this postseason. Immediately after the Dallas Mavericks were eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday, Avery Johnson's status appeared to be in limbo. ESPN.com's Marc Stein recently reported that his job would be in serious jeopardy if he did not make it out of the first round.
Having been eliminated by Tim Duncan and the Spurs in three of their past four playoff appearances heading into this season, Phoenix made a bold move to take the next step in February. The Suns sent four-time All-Star forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal, hoping the former MVP would provide the inside presence the team had lacked.
Phoenix sported a 37-17 record when O'Neal first took the court for the Suns and finished out the season at a little slower pace, ending at 55-27.
O'Neal did average 15.2 point and 9.2 rebounds against the Spurs, but his poor free-throw shooting cost Phoenix in the series. San Antonio's Hack-a-Shaq philosophy resulted in the big man going to the line a whopping 20 times in Game 5 alone, but he hit only nine in the 92-87 loss. He shot 50 percent from the line (32-of-64) in the series.
D'Antoni has a 267-172 record in six seasons as an NBA coach. He is credited with helping to revive the running game in the league at a time when scores were plummeting amid pedestrian half-court offenses.
Failing to blend his philosophy with a new general manager in Kerr, who then brought in O'Neal, might ultimately be what puts the brakes on this Suns era.