Just six days after he lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy, and three days after he paraded through the streets of Oakland as a champion, Golden State Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry was introduced as the new head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Gentry, who was last a head coach in Phoenix, from 2009–13, brought great enthusiasm to his introductory press conference, making it clear that he believes this Pelicans team is, well, ready to take flight.
“Our core players are at that age where you’re ready to really take off. That 25 to 28 range is when most of the guys in this league really reach their peak,” Gentry said. “If we can keep everybody healthy — obviously health is a big factor — I think we can do a lot of good things.”
The Pelicans are coming off a year in which they improved from a 34–48 record in 2013–14 to 45–37. And they managed to hold off the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference and break a four-year playoff drought.
A big reason for the Pelicans’ improvement was the MVP caliber play from All-Star power forward Anthony Davis.
In his third year, Davis, who is only 22, earned All-NBA honors and led the league with 2.9 blocks per game. He also averaged 24.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.
Gentry thinks his offense will let Davis thrive. “I don’t think he’s even come close to his ceiling because I think he’s going to get better and his range will improve,” Gentry said. “I think one of the first things you’ll see is that we’re going to play a lot faster and get [Davis] the opportunity to get into the open court. He's going to be a real versatile player.”
“He has a chance to be truly one of the great players in this league for a long, long time,” Gentry continued. “We’ve got the best player in the NBA not named LeBron James.”
While having a roster headlined by Davis made this Pelicans job appealing, Gentry thinks a better defense will get the team to the next level.
“We are going to be a very good defensive team that happens to be good offensively,” Gentry said. “I think that’s where this all starts.”
The coach wants to bring a culture of winning to the Pelicans franchise, which he believes begins with having fun, and he hopes that culture will spread throughout the city of New Orleans.
“I saw the fans and the way they reacted and the enthusiasm and the loudness of the crowd,” Gentry said of the hometown supporters in the first round of the playoffs. “Our goal is to have that every single night, and not just in the playoffs.”
In the little time Gentry had since the NBA Finals, he contacted as many Pelicans players as possible, wanting to immediately start the march towards a hopefully special year. “Why can’t we be the Golden State of next year?,” he asked. “Why can't this be our time?”
Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images