LOS ANGELES -- Steve Kerr's stunning announcement Tuesday that he will not return as the Suns' president of basketball operations next season sent shockwaves through the team's No. 1 plan for this summer: retaining Amar'e Stoudemire.
Stoudemire has been open to exploring his options as an unrestricted free agent by opting out of his contract in the event an extension could not be reached with the Suns. But the departure of Kerr, who had been handling the early stages of the negotiation with Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, cast a cloud of uncertainty over the process.
A person familiar with Kerr's decision to step down and return to the television booth in Doug Collins' analyst spot with TNT said it unfolded over the past couple of the weeks and left a sour taste on both sides of the Stoudemire negotiation. Kerr's contract was set to expire after the June 24 draft, and it appears to be another episode of penny-pinching by owner Robert Sarver that spurred Kerr's decision to leave the organization only weeks after the Suns made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals. Kerr, according to sources, was asked to take a significant pay cut on his new deal, a slap in the face given the Suns' successful season.
But another person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that Kerr's decision also was related to frustration that Sarver had not yet committed to a full-length, maximum-salary contract for Stoudemire. The Suns have made several offers to Stoudemire this summer, but the person familiar with the situation said the parameters of the offers are "not where they need to be." Now, with the departure of Kerr -- who is trusted by both Stoudemire and Walters -- Stoudemire's future in Phoenix is more uncertain than ever.
As the situation unfolded Tuesday, it was not immediately clear whether Kerr's top lieutenant, assistant GM David Griffin, would be promoted to the No. 1 job or the Suns would orchestrate a search for Kerr's replacement.
Kerr's departure was first reported by the Arizona Republic and KTAR in Phoenix, the Suns' flagship radio station.
Several of Kerr's personnel moves fueled the Suns' run to the conference finals, including reversing course on his controversial acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal by trading him to Cleveland; acquiring Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley from Charlotte; and drafting Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic in 2008. All four players played prominent roles in the Suns' return to the Western Conference elite this season.
Stoudemire, who is working out and strategizing with his agent in Miami, will enter the final stages of his renegotiation with serious doubts about the direction of the organization. The Heat, with enough cap space to add a max free agent alongside Dwyane Wade, are among the most likely destinations for Stoudemire if he does not re-sign with Phoenix.