New coach Porter takes over Suns as clock ticks - East Valley Tribune: News

New coach Porter takes over Suns as clock ticks

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Posted: Monday, June 9, 2008 3:50 pm | Updated: 10:53 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Five minutes and two questions into his first press conference as coach of the Suns, Terry Porter got a firm grasp of just what he's walking into.

Slideshow: Meet Coach Terry Porter

"Coach, are we going to have a world's champion team next year?" the inquisitor shouted. "Or at least beat San Antonio?"

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The zingers came courtesy of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon but were asked on behalf of Suns fans everywhere.

"Thank you, mayor. Thanks for easing him into the job," Suns general manager Steve Kerr shot back with both a chuckle and a healthy roll of his eyes.

Then again, there is little time to waste for Porter.

With an aging roster of stars amid an ever-improving Western Conference, the Suns may find it harder and harder to get where Gordon and the rest of the Valley want them to go.

Porter, 45, agrees with Kerr's assertion that the Suns are still a championship-quality team and has check marks beside all of his qualifications.

He's been part of winning teams and is comfortable in the playoff arena. He wants to continue Phoenix's running style on offense - albeit a little more controlled - while paying more attention to and raising expectations on the defensive end. He wants to extend the bench, develop young players and preserve Phoenix's 30-something starters (Raja Bell, Grant Hill, Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal).

"I'm very happy to be here to have a chance to further the great tradition of Suns basketball. To win 50 games in the Western Conference each of the last four years, it isn't easy," he said. "I think we have a good mix of veterans and young guys and there will be some addition with free agents and draft picks coming up."

Porter has spent 22 years as a player and coach in the NBA, and his teams have reached the playoffs 20 times, making two trips to the NBA Finals (in Portland in 1990 and 1992) and six to the conference finals (including the last two years as an assistant under Flip Saunders in Detroit).

He has played under or coached with five of the most successful coaches in NBA history, including Jack Ramsay (in Portland), Rick Adelman (in Portland and Sacramento), Saunders (in Minnesota and Detroit), Pat Riley (in Miami) and Gregg Popovich (in San Antonio, where he and Kerr were teammates for two seasons).

Porter and Kerr became friends and golfing buddies during that time. "We had a great relationship: He played and I sat and watched," Kerr joked.

But other than a Kerr visit to Milwaukee's training camp after Porter became the coach in 2003, they have only spoken once or twice a year since.

"It's not like he's my best pal," Kerr said.

"I haven't seen his kids in six years. This was based more on respect than friendship, but it helped.

"I saw back then that he had all the qualities of a head coach. Terry is born to be a leader with the ability to work with people, communicate and demand respect because he's a special person. Training staffs and (public relations) departments around the league are messaging to tell us how much we'll enjoy working with him.

"This guy is so classy, and that might be the No. 1 quality you look for in a coach."

Porter will make about $2.3 million (with the possibility of some performance incentives) for each of the next three years - a little more than half of what former coach Mike D'Antoni ($4.5 million) was scheduled to make this season.

Porter said he and Kerr would build the coaching staff together, and a defensive specialist wouldn't be necessary since he would personally implement the philosophy. Alvin Gentry, D'Antoni's lead assistant last season, is a candidate for the staff along with ex-Sun Jeff Hornacek and Jerome Kersey, Porter's former teammate in Portland and an assistant when Porter was the head man in Milwaukee.

"We're not going to change who we are," Kerr said.

"When you have Steve Nash, if you don't run the ball, you're crazy. But we can be more balanced at attacking the paint and the rim with Shaq.

"Obviously we have some defensive problems. But it isn't like, 'Hey, Terry Porter's our coach, we're going to be a great defensive team.' It doesn't work that way. But we have to do everything we can to get to that point where we are better in that department."

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