Tri­ano glad for time in Port­land

Suns coach learned much from Trail Blaz­ers’ Stotts

The Arizona Republic - - Azcentral Sports -

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.”


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