Should Alvin Gentry remain the New Orleans Pelicans coach?

Alvin Gentry New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Alvin Gentry New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans are getting ready for life without Anthony Davis. Should the new regime keep Alvin Gentry as head coach?

Dell Demps is no longer leading the New Orleans Pelicans from the big corner office desk. Anthony Davis wants to be gone, to no longer have the burden of leading the Pelicans on the court. Alvin Gentry has been an affable, if not effective leader as the main voice on the sidelines. Still, the question lingers. Should Gentry remain the head coach once Davis is traded?

Alvin Gentry was hired as coach after Monty Williams was let go. Williams had a “Playoffs or Bust” mantra and made the playoffs. However, his Pelicans squad met an early version of the Golden State Warriors. The tepid playoff series was enough to see that Williams did all he could with Anthony Davis.

Gentry was hired into a win-now-situation. He knew the stakes even before finishing out his season with the Warriors, yelling out messages to Davis while celebrating and being sprayed with championship champagne in Oakland.

Gentry came to New Orleans with a reputation as a top offensive coaching talent. He did a valiant job in Phoniex before flaming out, then joined the Warriors. Their success gave his resume a boost, and Demps gave Gentry a contract.

The first two seasons were marred by injuries, which for New Orleans is third in line behind death and taxes. The team was doing only marginally better in the standings and was sorely lacking in defensive efficiency in Gentry’s second season. The team, as constructed by Demps, was just not going to cut it under any coach. But then the trade for DeMarcus Cousins changed everything.

With Cousins, a fully healthy Jrue Holiday, and an experienced Anthony Davis entering his prime, the Pelicans were expected to contend. This was the best team Alvin Gentry ever had as a head coach. The third year “Playoffs or Bust” mandate was real.

Where Monty Williams bombed out in a playoff series, Gentry’s Pelicans went nuclear on Portland. Jrue Holiday in particular was freed to show his full range of talents. Even after DeMarcus Cousins went down for the year with his gruesome injury, the Pelicans played well. However, it did take a ten game winning streak down the stretch just to secure the sixth seed.

Winning only a single game against Golden State in the Second Round sobered up anyone still high from the Portland series. In two years, Davis saw the differences in the two teams’ growth. Along with the rest of the NBA world, Davis had to wonder what could have been if only Cousins stayed healthy. Most of the world came to the conclusion Cousins was not good enough to change that series.

And no one player is good enough. That is why Davis asked for a trade. Davis came to the same conclusions that Lebron did. It is ‘The Trade Request’ mimicking ‘The Decision’ in most every way. Davis is a bit unsure of himself as a lead man and has been prone to minor injuries. To win a championship, Davis wants teammates capable of carrying his load, not splitting it into pieces.

Gentry has made good use of whatever pieces were laying around the locker room. Gentry’s healthiest roster played the first four games. The Pelicans won all four. In between, he kept the Pelicans on the fringes of the playoff chase until Davis made his trade request.

Some of those spare parts logging more minutes than originally planned actually helped speed up their development. Much of the Pelicans younger players have found areas where they could help a winning team. But consistency is huge, and the Pelicans rosters and linueps never had much continuity during the Davis era.

Every time a player made strides under Gentry, Demps would try to flip that once undervalued asset into something more. Some of Gentry’s coaching shortcomings could be attributed to  the bargain mentality that Demps applied to roster construction. Still, it seems Davis sees his teammates in a worse light talent wise than most of the league.

Whatever players are left after the new front office deals Davis needs to believe in the head coach. Gentry is admired around the league. He has the personality for developing either group of incoming assets from the skeleton parts of the Lakers lottery team or the Celtics ready-made contender trade package.

Gentry has had the back of the players in the locker room. They’ve played with pride the last few weeks, and have shown the Pelicans supporting cast was not as talentless as Klutch Sports tried to make it seem. The remaining core group will play for Gentry and will want to prove their worth to start next season much like this year’s Sacramento Kings (Buddy Hield says hello).

Gentry will have the players’ support, and that is one big reason to keep him around for at least the next season. It would cost too much money for a small market, non-contending team to pay two coaches. Gayle Benson will not fire Gentry until the roster of the new era takes shape. That will take at least a year or two.

Gentry has the rest of this season plus two more on his contract. If the new core forms and needs a coach with a more defensive identity, Gentry’s contract will expire and we all part ways; no firing or resignations needed. If Gentry can organize a new roster into a contender for a playoff spot quickly, a small one year roll over extension keeps everyone happy, but no one too settled.

The biggest reason for not replacing Gentry right now or for next season is that there are no better coaching options available. Any big recognizable names will cost far too much, or will just be retread coaching hires. Perhaps an assistant on the Pelicans bench would suffice, but elevating them now just puts them under unnecessary pressure.

The adrenaline from the coming changes has resulted in some people with elevated heart rates wanting to make emotional decisions. The one thing the Pelicans will need in the coming months is a familiar and calming voice. So far, Gentry and Jrue Holiday have been those voices.

The final reason to keep Gentry around is that Jrue Holiday desires it. Through this drama, Gentry and Holiday seem to be on the same page, holding in the same emotions. Let’s keep them in the same building, lest New Orleans lose both without having a better replacement for either.

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Alvin Gentry has the knowledge. He is a leading mind in the new NBA schemes. He has a great relationship with the players. Gentry protects the nest and should remain coach. Change for changes sake sends the wrong message. Demps deserved to go, but Gentry deserves a bit more time from the New Orleans Pelicans.