| ||PHOENIX -- For Danny Ainge, the choice was as simple as it
was difficult. Being a father and husband, he decided, was more
important than being an NBA coach.
Just six weeks into the season, Ainge abruptly resigned as coach
of the Phoenix Suns on Monday because he said he needed to devote
more attention to his wife and six children.
"I love coaching, but anybody can coach," Ainge said. "My
wife has just one husband and my children have just one father.
Some of you may think I'm jumping ship. I don't believe I'm jumping
ship. I'm diving overboard to save my family."
His top assistant, Scott Skiles, will replace him. At 35, Skiles
is the youngest among current NBA coaches.
The announcement took the entire Suns organization by surprise.
Skiles said Ainge told him of his plans on the plane ride home from
Dallas, where the Suns lost Saturday night.
"I was shocked to say the least," Skiles said.
Ainge had a 136-90 record in just more than three seasons with
the Suns. His current team was 13-7.
"I didn't see it coming," the Suns' Tom Gugliotta said. "I
knew our playing to our potential on the court was not perfect, but
Danny had us working hard. It was a surprise."
Ainge said the team's performance had nothing to do with his
"If we were 17-3, I'd be making the same decision," he said.
However, Jason Kidd thought Ainge was becoming increasingly
frustrated by the team's play.
"As a coach you kind of get fed up," Kidd said. "I think he
was worn out and tired."
Ainge, 40, has children ranging in age from 4 to 19.
He cited a recent time when one of his teenage sons said he was
becoming too distant "and I couldn't disagree with him."
"It really comes down to just wanting to make a statement to my
family that they are more important than my career," Ainge said.
He said there are far more demands on a coach than on a player.
"I felt like I had a lot of little kid in me when I played,"
Ainge said. "I feel like that little kid is dead because I haven't
been able to enjoy it. The reason that I haven't been able to enjoy
it is the people I want to share it with aren't sharing it with me,
and it's not as much fun. I just want to share their lives with
them. It's that simple."
Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said he initially was going to try to
talk Ainge out of it.
"But then he explained the reasons why, and that's pretty
powerful," Colangelo said.
Skiles was a candidate for the head coaching job in Orlando
during the offseason. He inherits a team that has one of the game's
top backcourts in Kidd and Penny Hardaway. Skiles played with
Hardaway in Orlando.
"This is a dream I've had for a long time, to be the youngest
coach in the league and I believe I am," Skiles said. "But the
circumstances of it, it's not like I'm jumping for joy. It's like
I've lost a close friend. I definitely have mixed feelings about
Hardaway was acquired in the offseason from Orlando but has not
played the last four games because of a sore left foot.
Ainge is a member of the Mormon church, which emphasizes the
family unit above all else.
"Danny is a unique person and a good friend," the Suns' Rex
Chapman said. "For him to walk away from one of the best jobs in
pro sports for the sake of his family makes a heck of a
Ainge grew up in an athletic family in Eugene, Ore., then
starred at BYU. He played baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays
(1979-81) before beginning a 14-year NBA career that included
championship seasons with Boston in 1984 and 1986.
Known for his intense competitiveness, Ainge played his final
three seasons with the Suns, then was hired as an assistant to
Phoenix coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. He stayed in the job just six
When the Suns began the season 0-8, Ainge replaced Fitzsimmons
as head coach.
Ainge's teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
each of the last three seasons.
Ainge said he wants some time away from the game. Colangelo said there would be a front-office spot for him when he decides to come
back. Ainge also said he might consider a return to television
"I need a job," Ainge said. "I'm not looking to retire at age
40 and get away and not doing anything the rest of my life and play
golf. I have no intention of doing that."
Ainge's coaching record
MacLeod says he's weighing offer to join Suns staff
Skiles brings no-nonsense approach to new job
Danny Ainge explains his decision to step down as Phoenix's coach.
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Scott Skiles is the new coach of the Suns.
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