Best Cheerleader in Local Sports 2011 | Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix
Alvin Gentry hardly is pretty enough to be a Phoenix Suns dancer — the closest thing to a cheerleader for the professional basketball team. But the slow-talking Suns coach (he's from Shelby, North Carolina, and played basketball at Appalachian State University) is the best motivator in the huddle we've ever heard. No matter how bad it gets, Gentry is upbeat: "Look, we can score on them whenever we want, okaaaaaay. All we need to do is get back on defense, okaaaaaay. We can win this game, okaaaaaay." Oh, if Gentry could have held on to the team that made it to the Western Conference Finals a couple of seasons ago! That team, of course, included Amar'e Stoudemire, now departed for the New York Knicks. Because Gentry worked a miracle with that squad after he was tapped to take over from the awful Terry Porter. In the conference finals for the 2009-10 season, Gentry was masterful against a superior Lakers team, taking the series to six games before the Suns were eliminated, okaaaaaay. We've given Gentry Best Pro Coach in a previous Best Of edition, but not even his considerable skills as a molder of freakishly tall men can help the existing crop of Phoenix Suns players to even get to the playoffs, much less make it into a championship round. (If there's even an NBA season. At this writing, it looks as if labor negotiations could stall or stop the upcoming campaign.) Tightwad owner Robert Sarver is putting budget over talent when it comes to the current Suns.
Steve Nash and Grant Hill are the nicest guys in the NBA. Practically saints. The charity work both do boggles the imagination. And they continue to out-perform all but a few NBA stars. In Nash's case, he's a former superstar who's still an aging star. At the beginning of his career in Detroit, Hill was predicted to become the next Michael Jordan, but injuries hobbled him, plus he got older. Still, last year, as the oldest starter in the league at 38 (he'll be 39 in October), he was the toughest defender on the team, mitigating damage done by such superstars as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. His major contributions didn't show up on the stat sheet, but he still averaged 13 points and four rebounds a game. Nash is a future Hall of Famer who will go down as one of a handful of great point guards to ever play the game, a two-time league MVP. Among his most amazing records: He's a four-time member of the 50-40-90 club, meaning he has shot an unbelievable 50 percent of his field goals, 40 percent of his three-point shots, and 90 percent of his free throws during that many seasons — which's more than any player in NBA history. He's one of five players to have ever shot such percentages, and one of only two players to have done it more than once. But he has never won an NBA title (despite leading Phoenix to two Western Conference finals, both of which they lost), and it would take major mojo for him to do it with the Suns anytime soon — and soon is all the time he has left. Sainthood won't cut it.

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