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 Thursday, December 16
Ainge resigns as Suns coach
Associated Press

 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.

Ainge's coaching record
Year W-L Perc. Playoffs
96-97 40-34 .541 2-3
97-98 56-26 .683 1-3
98-99 27-23 .540 0-3
99-00 13-7 .650 --
TOTAL 136-90 .602 3-9

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 resignation.

"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 it."

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 statement."

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 months.

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 work.

"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."

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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