Alvin Gentry, prior coach of 4 teams, hired to lead Pelicans

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Sunday, May 31, 2015

Golden State Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry has been hired as the new coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, the team announced.

Gentry, 60, and the Pelicans agreed to a deal Saturday, with New Orleans choosing the former Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns coach over fellow finalist Jeff Van Gundy, an ESPN NBA analyst, sources said.

"I'm truly honored for the opportunity to lead the Pelicans as their head coach and am anxious to get started," Gentry said in a statement.

Gentry will finish the postseason with the Warriors before taking over as coach of young star center Anthony Davisand the Pelicans. Golden State hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

"We are excited to announce that Alvin Gentry is the new head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. We warmly welcome Alvin and his family to the Pelicans organization," general manager Dell Demps said in a statement. "After assessing our team, along with the core values of the Pelicans, we created a list of characteristics and qualities we wanted in our head coach. We conducted an extensive coaching search that identified Alvin Gentry as the right person to lead our team."

Gentry has been one of the architects of the Warriors' potent offense. As the lead offensive assistant, players and other assistants looked to him as the one who could draw up a shot for anybody.

The centerpiece in New Orleans is the 22-year-old Davis, a two-time All-Star who averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game this season.

The Pelicans, sources say, chose Gentry because they wanted to infuse their offense with more creativity and pace, in hopes of taking advantage of Davis' uncommon gifts for a big man and the athletes on the roster around him.

New Orleans finished 27th in the league in pace this season under coach Monty Williams, whose insistence on playing slowly -- but without great success defensively -- cost him his job after five seasons, despite the Pelicans' 45-37 record and surprise trip to the playoffs as the West's No. 8 seed. They were swept by Gentry's Warriors in Round 1.

"Alvin is a well-respected coach that brings many years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, creativity and leadership." Demps said. "Alvin and I have a shared vision and we look forward to working together in achieving sustained success for Pelican fans and the New Orleans community."

Sources say the Pelicans also interviewed Van Gundy and Scott Skiles, who was hired by the Orlando Magic on Friday, and initially had interest in freshly fired formerChicago Bullscoach Tom Thibodeau. Each is known as a hard-driving, defense-first coach.

USA Today reported Saturday that New Orleans also interviewed Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg -- who is negotiating with the Bulls to fill their coaching vacancy, according to multiple league sources -- and veteran NBA coaches Sam Mitchell and Vinny Del Negro.

Gentry and Van Gundy were the only candidates to interview twice with the Pelicans, sources said.

The fact that Gentry won plaudits for his offensive creativity in Phoenix, as well as his contributions to the league-best Warriors' success this season, made him the favorite for the Pelicans job from the start, in many eyes. It didn't hurt that the Warriors led the league in defensive efficiency almost start to finish this season, which convinced the Pelicans that Gentry will know how to strike the right balance.

Gentry replaces Williams, who was 173-221 before being fired May 12. Davis had a strong relationship with Williams, and a day after the season ended, he called him "a great coach" and said "the whole team loves him."

The hiring is the first by Demps, who joined the franchise shortly after Williams had been hired during the 2010 offseason, when the club was under different ownership.

Gentry will be the sixth head coach in New Orleans franchise history. Only Paul Silas finished with an above-.500 record, which he did in 2002-03.

"We are thrilled to have Alvin join our organization," Pelicans owner Tom Benson said. "He has proven himself as a winner and is in the midst of helping the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. We look forward to having him lead our team."

Gentry has spent 12 seasons as an NBA head coach. He finished .500 or better in four of them. He led teams to the playoffs two times: 1999 with the Pistons and 2010 with the Suns. That Phoenix team reached the Western Conference finals and lost in six games to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr hired Gentry as his associate head coach and offensive coordinator when he came to the Warriors last May. Kerr was the general manager in Phoenix.

Kerr's top choices for his lead assistant last summer were Gentry and David Blatt, who ended up as head coach in Cleveland.

Gentry was not at the Warriors' practices Friday and Saturday, likely because he was meeting with Pelicans officials.

Kerr saluted the move in a statement Saturday night.

"I'm extremely happy for Alvin and wish him the best of luck in this new challenge," he said. "He's had a tremendous impact on the success of our team this season and, personally, has been instrumental in my development as a head coach. His experience as a head coach in the NBA has been invaluable during my first season and will, likewise, serve the Pelicans well as they move forward. Our loss is New Orleans' gain and I know he'll do an outstanding job with the Pelicans once the NBA Finals are completed."'s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN Stats & Information and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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