When a professional team performs poorly, the head coach and general manager often end up in the crosshairs. At times it’s completely justifiable, especially when an organization comes up woefully short in meeting legitimate expectations.
After deciding to move on from Monty Williams and a postseason appearance, the 2014-15 season was seen as a major disappointment. Although the amount of injury relieved some burden, enough conclusions could be drawn from the results.
If the Pelicans suffer through a mediocre season or worse, should Dell Demps or Alvin Gentry be the bigger scapegoat?
Jason: Dell Demps
Hopefully it doesn't come to this, but if the Pelicans have another season where they don't even compete for the playoffs then I think it is time to move on from Dell Demps. So far this may be the only off-season where Demps hasn't shot himself in the foot, and we have seen Alvin Gentry contribute to a championship team. Plus, he's only been here for one season versus Demps' six years with only two playoff appearances.
Kevin: Alvin Gentry
Alvin Gentry for sure. We've seen Gentry misuse Anthony Davis last season. Demps has provided players that fix crucial holes on this team. He drafted well. If the coach continues to misuse parts, then we have to think about moving on again. I don't like the idea of firing another coach, but I never thought Gentry was the right coach for the job. If he can't adjust to the roster, then we have to move fast because our window to make AD feel like he can win here is closing fast.
David: Both of them
Demps shares the greater burden here because everything happening is under his control (or at least the appearance of) at this point. Demps has acquired every player and selected Alvin Gentry personally. Gentry's blame here is minimal because it was Dell Demps who chose Gentry in the first place. It wasn't a secret that Gentry is more of an offensive minded head coach and that this franchise was far weaker on the other end of the floor. Expecting Gentry to become a different kind of coach is a foolish dream. Expecting the general manager to accurately identify the needs of the organization is in the job description.
Oleh: Alvin Gentry
I badly wanted to write down both names as well, but Dell Demps ultimately gets to stay because of how often he’s been forced to operate with one hand tied behind his back. Upon Tom Benson’s purchase of the New Orleans Pelicans, the mandate became win-now. Later, there were hints that the top brass were swayed by the coaching style of the Golden State Warriors during the 2015 playoffs, and reportedly more expenditures could have been made on the injury prevention front.
Sure, Demps has made personnel mistakes like Austin Rivers and has probably been too stubborn in trade negotiations, demanding too much in return for players like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, but in a vacuum, his moves collectively made sense more times than not. Statistics have supported this notion, but the problem is we’ll never know the true outcome because of injury and a questionable coaching change.
Meanwhile, Gentry’s track record has always failed to impress. Soon after he was announced as the new head coach, I gave the hiring a grade of 4 out of 10.
It may seem harsh, but I can't grade the move any higher. Despite the fact that Alvin Gentry is a player's coach, well-respected and is considered one of the best offensive minds in the game, a head coach needs to be so much more. This is especially true when the Pelicans had their choice of some very worthy candidates, a far cry from the situation back in 2010.
Besides his previous teams having all sorts of problems defensively, Gentry's rotations and ability to lead and motivate young players have been questioned multiple times in the past.
After one season, the defense remained abysmal, Anthony Davis’ growth stagnated and Jrue Holiday was relegated to a reserve role for far too long despite a dumpster fire starting lineup. End result: tack on another disappointment to Gentry’s track record.
Fernando: Dell Demps
Demps should get the nod here because of a much longer tenure of unsustained success; however, I don't think either should get fired after this season unless it is absolutely terrible.
Travis: Alvin Gentry
This one I’d actually put on the coach more than Dell Demps, but everybody deserves blame if we go another year without AD in the playoffs. To miss two years in a row and get there only once in Davis’ five years would be an organizational failure. A coach should be able to mold his team’s play around the roster he is given - this roster, as inexperienced and offensively-disabled as it is, has the makings of a good defensive squad.
At various times in their career, nearly every player has either had good defensive seasons (in Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box plus/minus) or at least the reputation of being a good defensive player - last year was not the case for many Pelicans players. Therefore, if the defense does not improve, that, to me, is coaching. This isn’t Gentry’s 2009-10 Suns with Nash, Stoudemire and gang who had the league’s number 1 offense; this is a team that added E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill for a very specific stated reason: defense. (Here’s another problem: Defensive Win Shares, Defensive Box plus/minus and good ol’ Defensive Rating did not measure out Moore and Hill as top 50 defenders last season, so don’t expect Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan out there.)