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Two top assistants leave in Suns coaching shakeup

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2013 at 12:15 am •  Published: January 23, 2013
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Next week, they are home against the Los Angeles Lakers in Steve Nash's first trip back to Phoenix since leaving the team. Then there's a home game against Dallas, followed by a road trip with stops in Golden State, Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.

Hunter wouldn't talk about lineup changes, but expect to see more of rookie point guard Kendall Marshall, the first-round draft pick who has struggled in his limited time on the court, both in shooting and on defense. Hunter was a special one-on-one project of Hunter in his player development role.

"I haven't in depth thought a lot about it," Hunter said. "We have talked about it a lot as coaches."

Hunter's three practices since his hiring have been longer than the ones Gentry ran.

"I think we cleared up a lot of uncertainties with the guys," Hunter said. "I'm trying to narrow our play calls down so we can perfect some things. And trying to plant a seed to start growing an identity. We want to be tough. We want to be serious and disciplined. And it takes time. I realize that. I'm just proud how the guys have responded to me.

"I know these practices are a lot longer than they are accustomed to, but we've got a lot to get accomplished. Like I told them, I don't watch the clock. I just watch what they do, and we have to work until we can't forget what we're supposed to do, not until we get it. We have to work until we can't forget it."

Center Marcin Gortat said he liked the changes he's seen so far, saying the structure and discipline remind him of what he had in Orlando with San Van Gundy.

Suns guard-forward Jared Dudley acknowledged it's been a whirlwind and players are just trying to do their job. "I would definitely describe it as interesting," Dudley said. "I would say shock. We've had a lot of changes the last couple of days. I've never been a part of this many changes so fast. But it just shows what happens when you're not winning games."

He says the players just have to buy in to what Hunter is preaching.

"At the end of the day, players have to go out there and execute to the best of your ability to try to win games," Dudley said. "If not, you could be out of here. First time it might be usually coaches, after that it goes to players — get them out of here."

The Suns are getting hammered on local radio talk shows, in part because of the extreme popularity of Gentry, in part because of the hiring of the inexperienced and only recently arrived Hunter, and in part because fans compare the troubled franchise to the one that Jerry Colangelo operated for so many years, usually as a winner.

Dudley said the history of winning in the Suns organization fuels that criticism.

"They've had the luxury of winning so often," he said, "so anytime you have a lot of losing these last couple of years, especially this year, taking a huge step back, they're going to look at the owner and management and they're going to look at the players. We kind of have to focus on finishing the season well and hopefully after free agency, the draft and a fresh start next year we can get back to what this city wants."

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Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx