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 today 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 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."
The 40-year-old Ainge 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."