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.