Triano glad for time in Portland
Suns coach learned much from Trail Blazers’ Stotts
PORTLAND, Ore. – Jay Triano is a faithful follower of WWTD.
What? Unaware of the acronym that guides Triano in some of the decisions he makes as interim Suns coach? It stands for What Would Terry Do, a reference to Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, whom Triano worked under for four years as an assistant before joining Earl Watson’s staff in Phoenix.
“You don’t know how many times I’ve said, ‘I wonder what Terry would do in this situation,’ ” Triano said.
It’s not unusual for coaches on the same staff to become friends as well as colleagues. Spend that much time together – with similar interests and passions – and personal as well as professional relationships develop. But Triano speaks of Stotts in almost reverent terms, repeatedly saying, “I learned so much from Terry.”
When asked what he learned, he smiled and said, “I couldn’t even start. A lot of things.”
The two coaches communicate constantly, even texting each other on Friday night, less than 24 hours before their teams would meet Saturday. Stotts texted Triano to congratulate him on his first two wins as Suns coach and also good-naturedly remind him that the “streak will end at two.”
“We have such a good relationship,” Triano said. “It’s easygoing and fun. I think it’s just because of the length of time together. Four years is a long time in this league. So it was that more than anything. When you’re in battles with somebody every day trying to figure out strategies for four years, you build a great bond.”
The two know each other so well that after the Utah game, Stotts texted Triano to tell him that he immediately recognized an offensive set Triano installed, leading to a Phoenix bucket.
“It was one of the sets that I bugged him about running and he said, ‘You finally got it in,’ ” Triano said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been sitting on it for five years.’ ”
Stotts said one of the qualities he most admired about Triano – and still does – is his ability to connect with players and keep a team loose.
“I think there are a lot of people who have basketball knowledge, but I think his personality is his best strength,” Stotts said. “He knows people and he reads people well. He’s good at talking to guys, relating to guys and guys respected what he had to say. More than anything else, players respect his knowledge of the game and they respect a truthful person. He’s a good man.”
During his four seasons in Portland, Triano became close with Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. The two would engage in trick-shot competitions, and the Blazers couldn’t leave the gym until somebody made a bucket. Lillard said he and Triano still talk all the time.
“I love Jay,” Lillard said. “You could tell Jay just having that experience as a head coach (with team Canada and the Toronto Raptors) and also being a great player he connected with players and coaches. He was always a huge supporter of mine. It meant something to me coming into the league.”
Since becoming the Suns’ interim coach, Triano repeatedly has said he’s unsure if he wants the job full-time because of the ancillary responsibilities, like talking to the media and meeting with season-ticket holders. He lamented Saturday that he couldn’t do his trick shots anymore because he’s always wearing a suit.
“This is no fun,” he said.
Don’t believe it, Stotts said. “No, the wins and losses and the paycheck help take care of that,” Stotts added.
“He always said he had the best of both worlds because he could get his head-coaching fix with the Canadian team. But he’s a competitive guy. Whatever his job is, he attacks it and really tries to do the best job he can.”
And when Triano needs help there’s always that little voice in the back of his head: WWTD.
“There were a lot of things we shared that has helped make the fabric of me as a coach,” Triano said.
Saturday’s game against Portland began a five-game, 10-day road trip for the Suns and Triano is curious whether Phoenix will play as well on the road as it did at Talking Stick Resort Arena in beating the Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz.
“I think we’ve kind of shown we can do it at home. Now we have to figure out how to do it on the road,” Triano said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We beat a team (Sacramento) that might not be a playoff team and we beat a team playing a back-to-back. Let’s put everything in check.”