Other Sports

Phoenix Suns pick Lindsey Hunter as interim coach

Phoenix Suns pick Lindsey Hunter as interim coach

PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns have turned to a man with 17 years of experience as an NBA player, but none as a coach, to take over the flagging team that hasn't been this bad halfway through a season in a quarter century.

Lindsey Hunter, the team's player development director, was picked as its interim coach Sunday, two days after the Suns and Alvin Gentry parted ways in what the organization said was a mutual agreement.

Hunter got the nod over more experienced options - assistant coaches Elston Turner, Dan Majerle and Igor Kokoskov.

``I think the simple answer is that the organization needed a jolt,'' general manager Lance Blanks said. ``We needed something that would shock the system of us, the players, and risk trumps safety in this business. We felt this was the right person to take the risk on.''

Hunter, 40, is the coach for the remaining 41 games of the season.

After that, Blanks said, ``we'll open things back up and at that time select the best candidate, which may or may not be Lindsey.''

``But he believes he can get us to the end of the season and do the things that we need done as an organization and most importantly for these guys on the floor,'' Blanks added.

Hunter joined the Suns in the scouting department last year and this season took over the team's new player development department.

As a guard with five NBA teams, Hunter averaged 8.5 points, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 937 games, 438 as a starter. He won NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 and the Detroit Pistons in 2004.

``I'm a little overwhelmed right now,'' he said after leading the team through practice Sunday. ``I'm tired, but today was fun. If you don't know by now, I'm a basketball junkie, so my ideal way to function daily is to be in the gym. It was a good day, the first day of practicing, and I think the guys enjoyed it.''

Hunter retired in 2010 and served in a player development job with Detroit before coming to Phoenix. As a finalist for the Orlando head coaching job last offseason, Hunter mentioned learning from the likes of Larry Brown, Doug Collins and Phil Jackson.

``I've always, since high school, considered myself a coach on the floor,'' Hunter said. ``I've always had really tough coaches who demanded that, and I embraced it and I actually enjoyed it.''

The Suns, with nine new players on their roster this season, have lost 13 of 15, including four straight at home, and at 13-28 have the worst record in the Western Conference. They don't play again until Wednesday, when they face the Kings in Sacramento. Hunter's home debut will come Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, who have the West's second-best record at 32-9.

Hunter said his goal for the team is ``just getting better.''

``If we can get better, then I'm not looking at wins and losses,'' he said. ``And I know this job is judged by that. I'm not a stranger to that, but realistically looking at it I want our team and our guys to find their confidence and just go out and play with passion. That's basically what I'm trying to do now.''

The emphasis, Hunter said, will be defense.

``I'm a defensive guy,'' he said. ``That's the identity that we're going to try to create, is being a tough, nasty, defensive-minded team, and we'll go from there. I'm not going to try to build Rome in a day. We're going to take it one step at a time and solidify our defense, make sure everybody understands what's going on, and then we'll hold them accountable from there.''

Backup point guard Sebastian Telfair, a big supporter of Gentry, said he wasn't surprised when Hunter got the job.

``Lindsey's going to hold everybody accountable,'' Telfair said. ``He was a player. The players respect him, so I'm anxious to see how this goes.''

The players know Hunter will bring a frank, no-nonsense approach.

``Even when he was a development coach, every time I talked to him, if I make a mistake, he tells me straight to my face,'' Goran Dragic said, ``and you know I think that's good, that everybody knows what is their role and what he is expecting from the players.''

Gentry was Phoenix's coach since Terry Porter was fired at the 2009 All-Star break. His time included a run to the 2010 Western Conference finals in 2010, his first full season as coach. But the team failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons. Then Steve Nash departed to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Suns, under the direction of team president Lon Babby and Blanks, overhauled the roster.

Meanwhile, owner Robert Sarver has had to face dwindling crowds at US Airways Center.

Gentry tried a series of lineups to develop some sort of chemistry and consistency with no success, and he acknowledged that he understood it was time for a change.

Gentry tweeted Sunday morning that he was ``already bored.''

``Need some suggestions as to what to do to fill the day,'' he wrote. ``Let's hear some good ones.''


Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 21, 36 days before the NFL draft.  

Redskins starters quick hitters—offense

The last couple of days here I looked at how the depth charts are shaping up with a little bit of commentary (offense, defense). Today and tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the starters with some quick hitters about each one, starting today with the offense.

QB Alex Smith—The deal is done, and the Redskins have their man for five years at $22.2 million per year or, if they prefer, three years at $23.7 million per. It seems like most fans are behind him but there will have to be a few more wins than losses this fall for that to become permanent.

RB Samaje Perine—He got better as the year went on, averaging nearly a half yard per carry more in the last seven games compared to the first nine. But the 3.4 average per carry certainly did not stop both Doug Williams and Jay Gruden from talking about drafting a running back early.

TE Jordan Reed—According to reports, he is rehabbing well from the hamstring and toe injuries that severely limited him last year. Still, expect him to be kept in bubble wrap until training camp and even then, his action may be limited.

WR Josh Doctson—Did Kirk Cousins look away from Doctson too often, lacking the confidence in him to let him go get the 50-50 balls? Will Smith have more confidence in Doctson? The answers to those questions may determine if the third-year receiver breaks out in 2018 or he continues to tease with flashes of ability.

WR Paul Richardson—He’s capable of the acrobatic catch, which should be fun to watch. Richardson was good with Russell Wilson on the off-schedule plays, maybe he can do the same with Smith.

WR Jamison Crowder—I guess it’s fair to say he had an off year in 2017 but his receiving yardage only dropped by 60 yards from 2016. It will be interesting to see if they keep him in as the punt returner after he averaged 6.3 yards per return (23rd of 25 qualifiers) last year.

LT Trent Williams—The six-time Pro Bowler is still in the relatively early stages of recovering from surgery to the knee that kept him from practicing from about Week 6 on. Don’t look for him until training camp and even then, the early workload is likely to be light.

LG Arie Kouandjio—This is the one offensive position that remains up in the air. Kouandjio has shown some grit as a spot starter but I don’t think the organization views him as a 16-game starter.

C Chase Roullier—Shortly after Roullier got the starting job when Spencer Long went out injured, Jay Gruden said that Roullier would be the Redskins’ center “for a long time”. There is no reason to doubt that at this point in time.

RG Brandon Scherff—His concern no longer is trying to live up to having been the fifth pick of the draft. Scherff has to play well enough to justify his 2019 option-year salary, which will be in the vicinity of $13 million.

RT Morgan Moses—He had surgery to repair his ankles, which were an issue most of last season. Still, he didn’t miss a start. Like Williams, even if he’s ready for training camp, don’t expect to see a whole lot of him.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Tandler on Twitter


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 27
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 129
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 173

In case you missed it