Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press

Phoenix interim coach Lindsey Hunter cites Pat Riley and Doc Rivers as coaches who succeeded without previous experience.

NBA Beat: These new head coaches learn on the job

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 12:35 pm

NBA coach wanted – no coaching experience needed.

That sign isn't hanging from the doors of most general managers when they're looking for a new coach, but lately experience hasn't been a prerequisite for employment as a coach.

Former NBA point guard Mark Jackson has found success in his second season leading the Warriors.

Now it's the Phoenix Suns' turn to go the neophyte route. They tabbed Lindsey Hunter to be their interim coach last Sunday.

Hunter played 17 seasons in the NBA for five teams and wasn't on the coaching staff when Alvin Gentry was let go Jan. 18.

Hunter was involved in the Suns' player development, working out with players, not working on game plans in an official capacity.

Hunter doesn't see that as a major hindrance.

"I was doing research and I saw that Doc Rivers had never coached before; neither had Pat Riley," Hunter said. "Those two seemed to do pretty good, and they were just like me. I have to start somewhere."

Hunter didn't inherit the best situation, taking over the last-place team in the Pacific Division.

Veteran Phoenix assistant coaches Elston Turner and Dan Majerle were logical choices to be the interim coach but were not retained by management.

That leaves the development of a team with some young pieces to a head coach who is learning on the job.

Hunter will rely on the experience gained playing for some of the best NBA coaches – Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, George Karl, Doug Collins – and his experience as a leader on the floor.

"Even as a player, a lot of my teammates would insinuate that I was (a) coach," Hunter said. "It's kind of been in me my entire life."

Then there's the interim tag – which makes Hunter the substitute teacher under evaluation for the rest of the season.

Hunter didn't start off badly. He led the Suns to wins in their first two games – at Sacramento and against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Eventually, the boost in energy and effort teams often show for a new coach will fade. Then Hunter will be judged for the strides he makes in a job he's never had before.

He said "that challenge is almost impossible" in terms of implementing all of what he'd like to do with the Suns.

"You do what you can," Hunter said. "It's hard to change drastically because we are programmed a certain way with certain things, especially offensively, that's the hard part. Defensively, you can do a little more, but I think we've done a great job of slowly incorporating some of the changes that I like doing."

Stat watch

Maybe numbers don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole story.

More times than not, a team with a winning record will have a positive point differential.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had the league's best record and a league-best plus-8.8 differential entering Saturday's games.

Sometimes differential shows how close a team is to being a losing squad.

There were only two teams above .500 with minus differentials (Milwaukee and Utah).

Then there's the one team with a plus differential with a losing record – the Los Angeles Lakers (plus 1.2).

Tweet of the week

"So the Kings getting sold for 525M!! And the owners ain't making no money huh? What the hell we have a (lockout) for. Get the hell out of here."

LeBron James (@KingJames) with his reaction to what the Kings' estimated worth is.

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