PHOENIX -- Terry Porter's job, like the Phoenix Suns' roster, has been hanging in the balance for several weeks. As Suns managing partner Robert Sarver grapples with which direction to take next, there is a "good chance" assistant Alvin Gentry will take over the head coaching job, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.
That decision, like the fate of Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal, and numerous other players, is in the hands of the fickle Sarver, who denied Friday that Porter's job is in danger.
“No, no. That’s an erroneous rumor,” Sarver told the Arizona Republic when asked about a New York Post report that Porter would be fired and replaced by team president Steve Kerr.
But the Suns have been discussing every aspect of their flatlining organization for several weeks, including whether to dump salary and trade either Stoudemire or O'Neal and whether to abandon the failed experiment of replacing Mike D'Antoni with Porter, a defensive-minded coach saddled with frustrated players forced to play a dramatically different style than the up-tempo one that was good for 58 wins per season over the past four years.
The person with knowledge of discussions about Porter's job security stressed that nothing is certain until Sarver actually signs off on it.
"Everything's fluid until the moment it actually happens," the person said.
UPDATE: In fact, urgency within the organization to make a coaching change appears to have overshadowed efforts to make a major trade before Thursday's deadline. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Sarver leaned hard on Kerr to seriously consider moving to the bench, but Kerr managed to avert such an untenable situation. He wants to coach someday, but the Suns' situation is too dysfunctional for learning on the job. With no ideal offer on the table for Stoudemire, Kerr now appears focused on making the right coaching decision, with Gentry the most sensible candidate -- at least in the short term. The Suns may consider expanding their search for a long-term replacement if Porter is fired or reassigned.
The appeal of Gentry is two-fold -- his experience and ties to the D'Antoni regime. His familiarity with the D'Antoni offensive system in which the Suns thrived would appeal to Steve Nash and Stoudemire, both of whom could be reinvigorated by the change.
Porter told the Arizona Republic Friday that neither Sarver nor Kerr had spoken to him about losing his job.
Gentry, previously a head coach with the Clippers, Pistons, and Heat, is a holdover from D'Antoni's staff who didn't join the former Suns coach on the Knicks' bench in New York. Gentry was viewed by some as a logical replacement when D'Antoni left amid disagreements with management over the direction of the Suns' roster following Kerr's decision to trade Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal in February 2008.
If Sarver goes through with the decision to fire Porter and replace him with Gentry, he would be repudiating Kerr's decision to hire Porter in the first place. It is a point that was not lost on longtime Suns executive Jerry Colangelo, who seemed to implicate Kerr in the Suns' current struggles when he spoke Friday at a Basketball Hall of Fame news conference.
"When Steve Kerr selected Terry Porter, that was his guy," Colangelo said. "He had the faith and confidence in him. It’s either worked out or hasn’t or it’s something that’s being questioned right now. Steve has to be responsive to that one way or the other. Terry’s a good guy. He’s worked hard at it. He inherited a team in transition. People have to be held accountable, and those making those decisions should consider all of that."