clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Alvin Gentry, a legitimate head coach candidate for the New Orleans Pelicans?

New, comments

Is he better suited to be a leader or follower? Gentry has a lot of positives, but they probably don't outweigh the negatives.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Pelicans brass met with Alvin Gentry, marking it as the first official interview to fill the head coaching position vacated by Monty Williams.

New Orleans Pelicans president Mickey Loomis and general manager Dell Demps are meeting with Golden State Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry on Monday night in San Francisco, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Golden State granted permission for Gentry, the associate head coach, to interview for the head-coaching vacancy between playoff series, sources said.

Prior to yesterday's news, Gentry was most strongly linked to other NBA teams including the Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets. Some feel he is the front runner for the job in the Windy City as Fred Hoiberg may be dealing with health issues again.

Over the last few years, Gentry has gained a lot of popularity, serving as an assistant coach for Doc Rivers last season and Steve Kerr this year. In both stops, he has been credited with helping to improve the offenses and many feel he's earned the opportunity to become a head coach in the league for a fifth time.

Thanks to a coaching career spanning three decades, Gentry's resume is, as expected, rather long. He spent nearly 10 years working within the college ranks before moving to the NBA and the Spurs in 1989. Three times when he was an assistant (Heat, Pistons, Suns), he was promoted to the top within the same regular season. His only outright hire as a head coach happened back in 2000 with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Gentry has posted an uninspiring 335-370 record. However, many supporters don't believe his results are indicative of his talents because he inherited a number of poor rosters. His largest positives includes mentions of offensive ratings, his numerous coach-player relationships and the respect he commands around the league as a well-known figure head. Some experts feel his innate ability to connect with people would serve him well in joining any new position, and in addition, overcome his potential age gap with younger teams.

He has an amazing charisma. Even if we're talking about people who haven't watched a second of basketball and know nothing of the NBA, if Alvin is the random old man who walks into the room, Alvin will win them over; he will find common ground somewhere. Either a movie they saw or the type of food they both like, or something. He knows how to connect with people in a way that I don't know you can learn how to do.

All of these points are important, but I can't help but feel his candidacy has not been analyzed properly, much like Thibodeau's apparent issue of slow play. So, let's have a closer look at all of Gentry's seasons as head coach outside of his first one in Miami. That gig lasted all of 36 games as an interim coach -- no true evaluation can be gleamed from such a small sample size. All the following statistics are courtesy of NBA.com.

1997-2000 Detroit Pistsons


Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Win % eFG% Opp. eFG%
1996-97 (Collins) 107.9 (5th) 101.3 (9th) 65.9% 51.2% (4th) 48.7% (12th)
1997-98 (Collins) 99.4 (17th) 96.5 (6th) 46.7% 45.2% (26th) 46.0% (9th)
1997-98 (Gentry) 106.3 (10th) 105.2 (21st) 43.2% 49.6% (9th) 49.0% (23rd)
1998-99 101.2 (11th) 97.9 (9th) 58.0% 48.0% (10th) 46.8% (17th)
1999-00 (58 games) 103.3 (4th) 103.2 (21st) 48.3% 48.6% (8th) 50.1% (27th)

In 1998, Alvin Gentry took over for Doug Collins. The undisputed star of the team was Grant Hill, but the Pistons missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. Although the offense improved immediately, the defense went noticeably down the drain.

In his first full season, Gentry led the Pistons back to the playoffs but it resulted in a first round exit. The following season, the defense slipped off the cliff again and he was sent packing. Local knowledge claims he wasn't a strong influence, and with ultra-nice guy Grant Hill as the leader, a lack of discipline existed inside the locker room.

Thus, after a 7-15 swoon in his third season, he was let go. At the time, the threat was real that Hill would bolt for greener pastures so management wanted desperately to shake things up and try to make the playoffs. Well, they did make the postseason, yet Hill still left for the Orlando Magic the following season.

2000-2003 Los Angeles Clippers


Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Win % eFG% Opp. eFG%
1999-00 (Ford/Todd) 95.2 (28h) 107.3 (29th) 18.3% 45.8% (26th) 50.7% (29th)
2000-01 98.4 (19th) 101.8 (20th) 37.8% 47.6% (12th) 46.6% (11th)
2001-02 102.0 (12th) 103.2 (20th) 47.6% 47.6% (16th) 47.7% (13th)
2002-03 (58 games) 98.5 (24th) 102.6 (22nd) 32.8% 46.3% (23rd) 47.5% (19th)

When Gentry arrived in Los Angeles, the Clippers were coming off back-to-back seasons with winning percentages under 20%. However, the team had some talent, all 21 years of age and younger: Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette.

In his first season the Clippers made great strides and then a year later, the organization added Elton Brand to the mix. Despite missing out on the playoffs, Ralph Lawler called the season magical and hopes were extremely high heading into the following season as the Clippers addressed their biggest need. They had traded for Andre Miller, a point guard in the midst of his prime.

Unfortunately, he suffered through the worst season of his career to that date as Gentry was unable to integrate one of the best passing point guards of that era. In fact, that season marked Miller's lowest win shares per 48 minutes total of his career until just this past season, as a 38-year old for the Kings.

In his second straight stint as a head coach, Gentry didn't get to finish the regular season he had started because he was deemed too nice and had lost the locker room.

''But I reached the conclusion Sunday night that the players simply were not responding, and I believe a change is necessary at this time.''

2008-2013 Phoenix Suns


Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Win % eFG% Opp. eFG%
2007-08 (D'Antoni) 111.2 (1st) 104.9 (16th) 67.1% 55.1% (1st) 48.8% (8th)
2008-09 (Porter) 108.0 (6th) 106.0 (19th) 54.9% 53.4% (1st) 49.3% (11th)
2008-09 (Gentry) 116.1 (1st) 112.5 (30th) 58.1% 56.2% (1st) 54.1% (30th)
2009-10 112.7 (1st) 106.9 (19th) 65.9% 54.6% (1st) 49.1% (11th)
2010-11 107.0 (9th) 107.4 (25th) 48.8% 52.2% (5th) 51.3% (25th)
2011-12 103.5 (8th) 103.8 (23rd) 50.0% 49.9% (9th) 49.1% (19th)
2012-13 (41 games) 99.6 (25th) 104.9 (26th) 31.7% 47.9% (22nd) 51.2% (26th)

Before Gentry took over in Phoenix, the Suns were typically an explosive offensive team; however, he was brought in after Terry Porter failed to make a connection with the team and team's firepower had waned. (Who hired Porter? Steve Kerr and it was one of his many mistakes as the general manager of the Suns.)

Although Gentry got the offense back on track, the defense immediately slipped to levels that were far worse than anything witnessed during Mike D'Antoni's tenure.

2009-10 proved to be a redemption of sorts as the Suns lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. With the successful season, Gentry was signed to a new 3-year deal. Sadly, this season ended up being a one-hit wonder.

Everything that followed was all downhill. Amare Stoudemire was traded in the off-season and the Suns thought it was a good idea to make Robin Lopez the starter alongside the best dump-off magician in the NBA. When Steve Nash was not on the floor in 2010-11, the Suns derailed consistently.

This season’s fall-off isn’t exactly Nash’s fault. His individual numbers are down, but just slightly. The Suns are still a great offensive team (better than the Spurs and Nuggets) with Nash on the floor, scoring 111.1 points per 100 possessions in his 2,465 minutes.

The problem is that the Suns’ offense has been pretty awful when Nash has been off the floor, scoring just 99.9 points per 100 possessions. That’s equivalent to the fourth-worst offense in the league.

Last season, the Suns scored 115.0 points per 100 possessions with Nash on the floor and 107.8 with him on the bench. There was a drop-off, but their second unit was still pretty potent.

Although the record improved incrementally the following season, cracks were appearing all over the foundation again about Gentry not controlling his players well.

It's hard to fault Gentry that Channing Frye showed up unprepared to play, or that Telfair and Brown looked lost early on, or that Suns jump shooters struggled trying to get their legs in NBA basketball shape after the prolonged time off.

With Nash and Grant Hill off the team before the start of the 2012-13 season, Gentry didn't have the veteran voices present in the locker room that are seemingly necessary to make his teams work. Forty-one games later he was out of a job again.

One step forward, two steps back

In 12 seasons, Alvin Gentry has made the playoffs just twice. Three times he's taken over the head coaching duties and three times he didn't get to finish a regular season he had started. In all of his multi-season stops, he was considered a player's coach -- he was not a disciplinarian.

The best indicator of this was the defensive ratings of his teams. Did you notice the dismal performances above? Only once in twelve tries did his team finish in the top half of the league (15th or better). If the old adage is true that defense is mostly effort, then nearly all of his teams didn't have the requisite focus to do well on that end.

When considering the plight of the New Orleans Pelicans defense the last several seasons, this lone point seems to make a Gentry-as-the-next-New-Orleans-head-coach scenario downright scary. Whatever improvements he might make on offense, as he did with the Clippers and Warriors the last several seasons, would come at a significant cost on the other end (unless he is somehow able to dupe Tom Thibodeau into becoming his assistant).

After spending the last several seasons griping about Monty's demeanor, Gentry looks like he'd actually make for a worse fit. His defensive philosophies have not worked. Young teams have trouble responding to him after a certain length of time. Lastly, his creative offensive strategies may not mesh well with the existing Pelicans. As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, New Orleans is very poor in transition.

As an assistant coach, Alvin Gentry makes for an absolutely fine candidate but anything more? No thank you. At least we could count on Monty's quiet personality to remain strict with the roster!