Steve Kerr And David Griffin Leave Suns

Today we've learned from Robert Sarver that there are "gray areas" leading to Kerr's departure that go beyond officially stated reasons and that Steve Nash is "disappointed" about Kerr leaving and wishes the Suns could afford to keep him.

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Nash Reacts To Kerr News And Drops Budget Bomb While Sarver Attempts To Soothe Angry Fans

We knew it was only a matter of time before we started hearing from the Suns star players. Amare, through his agent, has made his disappointment known and now Steve Nash spoke directly to Yahoo! Sports on the matter.

Nash expressed his disappointment in Kerr leaving and also once again said how much he hopes Amare will return to the team. He's a guy used to being the underdog, though, and said that even if Amare doesn't return, he's hopeful the team will be able to compete up to its fullest potential -- whatever that is.

He also dropped this bit of fuel on the "Sarver is cheap" fire, saying,

"Steve (Kerr) had opportunities that were better. I don’t blame him. I wish it was in our budget to maybe keep him around, but what can we do? I can’t get too deep into (it) or else it will become a total detriment."

This little slip of the tongue from Nash flies in the face of Sarver's attempt to soothe angry fans with an hour-long appearance on KTAR radio today.

Sarver, who has yet to actually deny offering Kerr a pay cut, responded to an angry caller who asked the real reason why Kerr had a sudden and unexpected change of heart about coming back to the Suns as GM.

Here's a portion of the exchange:

Caller: Three weeks ago Steve Kerr said he wanted this job, he was excited, he was looking forward to signing. A week later he walks away from it and out of nowhere all these changes happen. And then on top of that, an 18-year employee who does a great job walks away, as well. So now the facts tell me that something had to happen between when he said he was excited to come back and wants to come back and then steps away from it and then Griffin walks away from it. So there's some grey area that's not making any sense here.

 

Sarver: Well, there's always a little gray area and at the end of a season when you sit down to talk about a contract or just do year-end evaluation with someone, there's a lot of discussion and it is gray and all I'm going to say publicly is that Steve did a very good job and I wish him well.

Dave's been here for 17 years. I was big fan of Dave. When I bought the basketball team, Dave was serving in a capacity much different than he's served the last few years. Dave was promoted up through the organization and I was a big fan of his and helped him grow in his career and now he's going to pursue other things.

But, you know at the end of the day you're not going to get all the truth and you're not going to get it out of me and there are certain things that are better kept private, so I'm not going to give you all the details you're looking for.

There's more to everything than what you read when you pick up a newspaper. My commitment is to make this basketball team as good a basketball team as possible. For the last six years, we've had the third best winning percentage. We're one of three teams that's won its division title three years and gone to the conference finals three years. My job is to have a great product. I'm not out to win the press conference and I'm not out to win the editorial boards. I want to have a good product and I'm committed to moving forward to do that. I spend the money to do that and so far we've been able to do it.

So, on one side you have various reports about Kerr being offered a pay cut and going to bat for his staff and you have Nash clearly saying that budget played a role in Kerr's departure. On the other hand, you have Sarver resting on the team's record and citing all the money he has spent.

The Suns have had a top 10 payroll for the past 3 or 4 years and have been a luxury tax player. While other teams (Lakers, Cavs and Celtics) have spent even more, it is not fair to say that Sarver hasn't been willing to spend on players.

That's where this entire mess still resides in a "gray area". It is too simplistic to think that Sarver would let Kerr and Griffin walk over what in the scheme of things would be a small percentage of the team's overall payroll and yet if the owner felt like he had done enough and dug his heals in, then that very well could have been what pushed those guys out the door.

Although taking what Nash said about the budget, along with other things I've heard in off-the-record conversations, there is little doubt that money played some role in this.

Sarver made it clear that whatever the issue is, it goes beyond Kerr's stated desire to spend more time with his kids, even though I am sure that's part of the equation. If the team's owner doesn't want the truth to come out, then we will be left with the thin gruel of rumor and speculation.

Sports franchises are not like other businesses. They hold a special place in the community and, in many cases, rely heavily on taxpayer dollars for assistance in funding their arenas.

Robert Sarver can choose to withhold the truth of this story, but there's a price in that, too.

 

A large portion of Robert Sarver's radio appearance can be heard here (via Sports 620 KTAR).

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Only Chance For Continuity Gone, David Griffin Will Leave Organization

Well, it’s now official. One of the main players in the Suns front office will not be returning and with his departure goes any hope of stability. This has now become a complete house-cleaning.

David was a driving forced behind the team’s philosophy of player selection that placed a high premium on personality and character resulting in teams that were high on chemistry and fan likability.

From the Arizona Republic:

Suns Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin won’t be selected. He told Sarver he would not be a candidate and would not stay with the organization after his contract expires in two weeks. He is not expected to return to the Suns after working for them for 18 years.

The story goes on to name other possible candidates, none of them big names or former GM’s.

This all very depressing.

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Sarver Doesn't Deny Kerr Pay Cut And Pours Cold Water On David Griffin

In the latest and perhaps saddest turn of events, Robert Sarver doesn’t deny offering Kerr a pay cut with his latest contract and sends a cool message to those hoping that David Griffin would provide front office continuity.

For full quotes from Sarver’s radio appearance and a very sad prognosis for the Suns future, see Bright Side of the Sun.

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The Day After, What's Next For Kerr, Suns

The day after Steve Kerr’s surprising departure as GM for Suns, Planet Orange mills about in dazed confusion. Paul Coro, Sun’s beat writer for AZRepublic, helps clear up the situation:

Kerr and Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver negotiated through Monday. Kerr was offered a one-year contract to stay at his current salary or a three-year deal that would repeat his previous one except for adding a third-year bonus. That meant Kerr’s first-year salary would be a cut of about 10 percent from last season, when his salary ranked in the upper one-third of West GMs.

“It (money) was a small part of it,” Sarver said. “I’m not sure it was a part of it at all.”

It was part of a picture that made leaving a better option. Kerr was not expecting a raise, considering the club’s annual losses and $2.5 million still owed to Terry Porter, a coach he hired and fired. But negotiations came at the same time that TNT’s lead-analyst job was vacated by Doug Collins, who became Philadelphia’s coach.

Where do the Suns go from here?

Internal candidates will be considered, but Kerr’s No. 2 man in basketball operations, Senior Vice President and 18-year Suns staffer David Griffin, also has a contract that expires June 30. A national search is expected to include Dennis Lindsey, the San Antonio assistant GM who was Minnesota’s top GM candidate last year before withdrawing.

Kerr will keep a Suns ownership stake and hopes to return to the NBA as a GM or coach.

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Steve Kerr Press Conference: Insists This Was His Decision For Family Reasons

2010-06-15_16

It is hard to imagine that Steve Kerr would so suddenly do an about-face about his desire to come back to his job as the Suns General Manager. Just weeks ago he was very clear about his intention to do so which made today's announcement all that much more difficult to swallow.

Follow that with the rumors that Kerr was leaving due to a contract dispute with Sarver or some kind of disagreement over Stoudemire's contract situation and this entire thing was falling squarely back on the shoulders of the team's owner.

I said earlier today that the Suns needed to get Kerr out to publicly answer questions and he did that this afternoon. He answered every question and was asked multiple ways to clarify that this was his decision and there was no contract or pay issues.

"I've got a couple of opportunities ahead of me now that probably were not there a few weeks ago. I had a chance to really sit down with my family, I had a chance to sit down with people in the organization and just kind of assess everything and in the end, this just felt like the right decision," Kerr insisted.

He would not say specifically what opportunity he's talking about. Most assume it's the TNT gig. Kerr stressed that he has three teenage kids and has been gone a lot over the past three years and wants to spend more time with them before they grow up and are gone. He left the door open for returning to a GM position in the future.

Kerr couldn't have been more clear in his refutations of all the rumors. He denied explicitly that there was any kind of financial motivation for his departure and defended the organization against charges of being "cheap".

"There's never been a question about the financial commitment. There's moves that you can question, some of which I made, and you can question where some of the money went, but you can't question the facts, which are that we've had a huge payroll over the past several years," Kerr said. "This is not a contract issue. This is a career and a personal decision that I've made."

Kerr said he spoke with Alvin Gentry today and is in the process of reaching out to the team's players. He talked to Grant Hill and Stoudemire and wasn't able to reach Steve Nash in South Africa. Kerr won't involve himself in any free agent offers and is relying on the Suns entire team for the draft, which has always been a group effort.

Alvin Gentry will take an increased role during the interim period while the team looks both internally and externally for a replacement.

Do you believe Kerr?

I, personally, want to trust Kerr. He's a good guy and a person you want to believe in, but at the same time, he's shown over his time here that he understands the need to spin information and has on more than one occasion said things about players or trades that were not true -- but had to be said.

If you are a cynic, you can easily find reasons to think that Kerr's leaving isn't about his family or desire to get back to the comfy life of a TV analyst. Certainly, if he takes a position with another NBA team within the next two or three years then you can say his leaving was about Sarver.

If Kerr goes back to a relatively laid back existence on TNT and spends the next four or six years seeing his kids through their high school years before coming back to an NBA job then that will be only thing that can really prove the motivations for this move are not as he claimed.

As for the rumors coming from those reliable national sources, let's not forget that they can have agendas, too. Not the reporters, but their sources in other teams who might believe they have the true inside scoop or perhaps are just trying to muck things up for the Suns.

Like many things in life, the real truth is often very difficult to suss out, so we are just left with opinion and impressions.

Today, Steve Kerr did his job in trying to make sure those impressions and opinions are as positive as possible given the reality of his departure.

If his job was carrying water for the Suns, he did it well.

Full audio: Kerr presser 061510

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Kerr's Departure May Seriously Hurt Suns' Chances Of Retaining STAT

NBA writer Sam Amick tweets what many are already afraid of: that Steve Kerr’s departure as GM of the Phoenix Suns may deter Amar’e Stoudemire from re-signing with the Suns.

Stoudemire was apparently beginning to feel comfortable with the direction the team was going in under Kerr and coach Alvin Gentry’s stewardship, and this throws a huge question mark right in the middle of all that.

Will Stoudemire be further encouraged to test free agency? It’s tough to tell at this point. The clear line of ascension points to assistant GM David Griffin taking over Kerr’s role. Stoudemire may feel at ease with Griffin in place, given his history with the team. But as The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro points out in his blog, there’s a lot of tension beneath the surface regarding new contracts, including Griffin’s.

Overall, this is terrible timing for the team. The last thing the Suns need during negotiations of perhaps the most important contract of the team’s history is the deterioration of the front office personnel leading those negotiations.

If Stoudemire leaves, particularly if his departure has anything to do with Kerr’s, where does that leave Sarver’s legacy in Phoenix? Is he now a complete pariah?

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Sarver Says Finances Played 'Small Part' In Kerr Ouster

AZ Republic beat writer Paul Coro sheds more light on the situation with quotes from Robert Sarver:

"I wouldn't say it's a big surprise," Sarver said. "Television is what he did before he came on board. It's a change of plans from during the season. It boiled down to a number of things, including lifestyle and the opportunity. I was hoping to have him back." Sarver said the differences in financial negotiations played a "small part," if any at all.

The story goes on to point out Kerr's family situation with his son Nick, a high school senior, being recruited and his family living in San Diego. (Side note: I saw Nick at the Suns practice facility one day -- kid can shoot the ball.)

KTAR's John Gamboro -- who is widely known to have close ties to Sarver -- reports:

Twitter / John Gambadoro: Contrary to Yahoo report S ...
Contrary to Yahoo report Steve Kerr was not asked to take a paycut. He was offered a 3-year deal with NO paycut but decided to return to tv

If this is Kerr's decision, the Suns need him to say that in no uncertain terms. It's not enough for Sarver to tell his side of the story on this one.

What's next?

The Suns will look internally and externally for its next GM and at the top of that list has to be VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin. Griff began with the Suns organization as an intern in the communications department in 1993 and has worked his way up the ranks. He is widely respected in the basketball community for his player evaluation abilities.

Griffin's current contract is also up at the end of this month. If he doesn't get the GM job, how likely is he to return?

By not retaining Kerr, the Suns have only added to the potential turmoil that Amar'e's departure will cause (assuming he leaves). Now facing a potential new front office staff, along with a major hole in the roster (if Amar'e leaves), Sarver will be under tremendous pressure to reassure fans that the team can once again recover from another summer of major changes.

The one thing Steve Nash has complained most about is the lack of continuity; Steve Kerr's departure and possibly losing David Griffin as well would be a huge step back for the team just days after ending the season on a high note.

Sarver has now gone through three coaches and three general managers since taking control of the Suns in 2004.

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Audio: Steve Kerr Talking About Contract Situation In May

Audio from Kerr's last formal conversation with local media talking about his contract situation.

Steve Kerr talking about contract 053010

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Report: Sarver Wanted Kerr To Take Pay Cut

These initial reports aren't always true and in this case, I certainly hope not. If Sarver lost Kerr over a pay cut, there will be hell to pay from Suns fans.

Stay tuned

Twitter / Adrian Wojnarowski: Suns owner Robert Sarver w ...
Suns owner Robert Sarver wanted GM Steve Kerr to take a paycut in new contract, league source says.

Twitter / Adrian Wojnarowski: Kerr departure could have ...
Kerr departure could have dramatically negative impact on ability to re-sign Amar'e, sources say. Suns star had gained strong belief in him.

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