Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013, 11:25 pm
Former Thunder coach part of `shocking' NBA soap opera
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By Steve Tappa, firstname.lastname@example.org
With Phoenix's iconic "Thunder Dan'' part of a shocking withdrawal from the Suns' city this week, the QC's own "Thunder Dan'' found his way back to an NBA bench.
Dan Panaggio, whose name is synonymous locally with the long-defunct Quad City Thunder, was named an assistant coach Wednesday by the reeling Phoenix Suns.
The job came open, in part because Phoenix's favorite son, and former Suns star Dan Majerle, resigned from his hometown club, upset over not getting the chance to replace former boss Alvin Gentry.
Ironically, one of Panaggio's old Thunder assistants, Elston Turner, also officially left the team Thursday after getting passed over for the post during interviews last weekend.
Gentry was fired last Friday after a string of seven losses in eight games. He was replaced on an interim basis for this season's final 41 games by former NBA player Lindsey Hunter, the Suns' player development director.
Panaggio, a former Suns advance scout, is joined on Hunter's new staff by Noel Gillespie and the Suns' only coaching holdover, Igor Kokoskov, who replaced Turner as lead assistant.
Suns' watchers called Hunter's hiring a "surprise move'' by General Manager Lance Blanks, who played for Panaggio's Thunder in 1993.
Phoenix (15-28) had the Western Conference's worst record before the new coaching regime debuted with a win Wednesday night in Sacramento.The Suns followed up that victory Thursday by upsetting the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers. Phoenix is back in action tonight at San Antonio.
The team's tumultuous week caps a topsy-turvy month professionally for Panaggio, who was relieved of his head coaching duties earlier this month with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.The Sharks were 4-13, sitting in 16th place at the time, but the move stunned that league, mere months after Panaggio ended a top-eight playoff drought the season before in his debut.
"Bringing in his triangle offense and a stout defensive approach, the Sharks were known as one of the hardest working and best coached teams in the league,'' reads an Internet report of the firing.
Panaggio has been known for all of those traits since launching his professional coaching career in 1989 as a Thunder assistant to his father, Mauro.Panaggio assumed the local Triple-A team's head-coaching job in 1992 and led the Thunder to Continental Basketball Association titles in1993-94 and 1997-98.
The Thunder were 313-191 in nine seasons under Panaggio, who left just ahead of the team's final campaign to become an Indiana University assistant with the Suns' current Director of Player Personnel, John Treloar.
Since then, Panaggio's career also has included assistant coaching stops at Marquette University and the NBA's Portland Trailblazers, and a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers' National Developmental Basketball League affiliate, the Los Angeles Defenders.