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Instead of an ill-fitting Alvin Gentry, imagine Becky Hammon as head coach of the Pelicans

There’s plenty of things wrong and people to blame for New Orleans current predicament but it’s never too early to start addressing issues that need no further time.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, but Pelicans game day has been a stroll through the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day.”

A repetition of rushing from work to get to the game on time while soaked in rum, shoving CBD foodery down my throat so that I can still get a glimpse of warmups, tipping the change cup-shaking homeless guy a dollar, taking the steps up to the arena and buying a shitty but somewhat efficient SKC latte.

Once in my seat, gazing upon bad offensive set after bad offensive set, viewing superstar big men play on the perimeter, noticing Dante Cunningham as the only player cutting to the basket — perhaps because Luke Babbitt left him all of his ‘90s emo records turning him into a cutter, beholding the Donald-Trump-trying-to-explain-how-the-wall-will-be-funded-like plays out of timeouts to watching moments of hope sunk with anvils tied to pianos tied to four dead elephants stuffed with concrete of despair.

As the final score confirms another loss, walking out with disgust and shoulda beens, hearing the terrible sax rendition of a Sean Paul song that earworms that song into your brain for four days and then hitting repeat as I tear the next home game’s ticket out of my spiraled season ticket notebook.

It’s all shampoo directions... if the shampoo smelled like a medley of underachieving, wasted time and disappointment.




It doesn’t have to be this way. The Pelicans field two current NBA All-Stars and one previous All-Star. There is no excuse for this team to be this bad; a 2-6 superstar-laden team whose offense is getting worse instead of better.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Lately, there’s been a grotesque narrative floating around Twitter that the Pelicans must retain Alvin Gentry to show DeMarcus Cousins that New Orleans is a stable franchise, much different from that time-lapse video of a man trapped in an elevator for 41 hours with diarrhea that he left behind in Sacramento. Unfortunately, Alvin Gentry is the shit-streaked and tattered underpants that would be the statue commemorating the aforementioned tragedy. Darren Erman is the reflecting pool that you sit beside and contemplate what could have been had the team made a smarter choice or cutbait sooner.

Erman has earned his place on this bench with his mad scientist engineered defense. The Pelicans were 7th in Defensive Rating entering Wednesday’s matchup with Toronto, who they wound up holding to under 100 points. The Pelicans were 28th in that rating last season. For reference, the best basketball ever seen in New Orleans was the 2007-08 Hornets and that team was 8th in DRTG during a much slower paced era of basketball.

Conversely in Gentry’s area of expertise, the Pelicans entered the Toronto game ranked 27 in Offensive Rating and scored a didley squat 87 points. Gentry’s first season in New Orleans witnessed the Pels finish 16th in ORTG, evidencing a drastic drop from almost mediocre to being the 2nd to last person in a human centipede.

I have always been opposed to the Gentry hire as I saw him as basketball’s Norv Turner. He’s a good assistant on a good team, but he cannot be the leader. He has been praised for his lampshade on the head, life of the party persona and his player friendly approach, but he was brought in to coach a team that clearly requires more discipline. He’s a total system coach whose system hasn’t fit any of the various incarnation of the Pelicans’ roster under his guidance, and post Boogie trade, it makes even less sense now.

Gentry apologists point to the number of open looks created per game — and that is totally on the shooters and the front office for bringing them in — but what’s the point of building an offense that creates open looks for shooters that can’t convert while disregarding some of the incredible talents of the team’s best players?

Use the existing roster to create an offense built on an interchangeable high/low game with Boogie and AD. Continue to space the floor at times with the other players but get some movement out of the wings to score on that backdoor cut or a flash to the middle. How many more games do you need as proof to show these role players are not up to the task at hand? The holes in the roster are very real as Oleh pointed out awhile back, but furthermore they should have never been relied upon as much as they have. I’ve long complained about Anthony Davis playing too far from the basket. Now, Gentry has DeMarcus Cousins playing like he’s some combo of Tyreke Evans and Buddy Hield.

Cousins either brings the ball up the court or catches it at the top of the arc. From there he either tries to use his handle to drive past his defender, pass the ball off and hang out on the perimeter or shoot a three or a deep two.

This is the plan for the best skilled scorer in the post in the league? It’s times like this I wish we had Magneto as a coach to tell Cousins and Davis, “You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different.”

Stop nullifying our strengths.

Stop limiting our potential.

So Where Do We Go From Here? — Finding the Next Pelicans’ Coach

There is not a universe in which Alvin Gentry should be retained as head coach of the Pelicans. When hiring a coach you should either go with someone with a proven track record or someone with no track record and some glint potential. Dell went with a lack of any proven record that continues to spiral out of control.

I would be very okay with the relatively safe Jeff Van Gundy hire, but I’d prefer to see the team take a bit of a gamble with the next coach. The Pelicans are already bucking trends by going big when everyone is playing small. This may be a disaster, or it may be getting ahead of the next trend.

It’s hard to think of New Orleans as being trendsetters as we are so often stuck in traditions and obsess over preserving the past. We fight change — I’m guilty of it — I hate the gentrification of my city and Gentryfication of my basketball team. At my day job we can’t even get a handrail installed on the steps even after several lawsuits over falls because the Vieux Carré Commission won’t allow any structural changes to our historic building.

However, the construction of a huge frontcourt — that has very unique, salivating skills — could be that cyclical throwback trend that ends up defeating the small ball run-and-gun style of basketball we are seeing across the league. You aren’t going to beat these amazing offenses by playing their game because you don’t have their all-world perimeter-orientated players. Dictate the style of play. Make their weaknesses your strengths. We have those tools so it’s time to use them.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

My coaching proposal is to really become cutting edge and have Dell call Becky with the good hair. I love the NBA for the game, but for also not being the NFL. Ever since David Stern handed the reigns over to Adam Silver, we have seen just how progressive this game and it’s players can be.

It’s well past the time for the first female coach in the league, and no one is more fitting of that role than Becky Hammon. In my opinion the easiest transition from player to coach has to be from the point guard position — they were the coaches on the court, the floor generals that had to know how to get the best out of everyone on the court.

Hammon was a better basketball player than Derek Fisher, Tyronn Lue and Steve Kerr. In college she was named WAC Mountain Division player of the year for the 1998–1999 season and topped Keith Van Horn as the WAC’s all-time leading scorer. She received the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award from the Women's Basketball Coaches Association as the best senior player. She was a 6-time WNBA All-Star, 2-time All WNBA first team, 2-time All WNBA second team, lead the WNBA in assists in 2007 and was voted as a top 15 WNBA player of all time in 2011.

Hammon was the female Robert Horry earning the moniker, “Big Shot Becky” for her ability to break hearts in the clutch.

Will this basketball success translate to coaching? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I at least have a higher expectation of her than I did with Alvin Gentry while he was in the interview process. I have even more optimism that Becky Hammon could do a better job with this team than Alvin Gentry would do if he was given a third year.

I also know that Gregg Popovich very much has her back — saying, “She’s a leader, she’s fiery, she’s got intelligence, and our guys just respected the heck out of her, so she’s coaching with us, she’s running drills. That’s why we made her a full-time coach.”

Popovich also made her the Spurs Summer League coach where she took home the championship in 2015. And maybe best of all, she watched first hand how Tim Duncan was utilized, how the greatest Spur of all time played alongside other bigs like Tiago Splitter and LaMarcus Aldridge to smaller fours like Boris Diaw to stretch shooters like Matt Bonner.

Pop’s coaching tree has spurred several quality coaches but some mediocre ones, too. Mediocre is better than what we have now, and if you remember, Monty Williams once fell into this category. I had my issues with him because he was terrible at game management. He didn’t know when to call a timeout, his rotations were awful, and holy hell, he made Tyreke Evans, Al-Farouq Aminu and Greg Stiemsma a thing! Monty waited until 14 seconds had run off of the shot clock to get his team to run a play. However, there was no denying he was brilliant out of timeouts and got his players to play above their talent levels.

These two skills are pillars of the Popovich coaching tree and if Becky can bring that alone, the Pelicans would be in a lot better shape than they are now — especially if Darren Erman is retained to keep an eye on the defense.

By the way, Erman should immediately take over as interim head coach. We need to close the book on the Gentry era (or error), signaling to the team and the fanbase that this disaster is over. Then over the summer, make that Becky Hammon splash, earning the franchise immediate universal praise and undoubtedly re-energerizing the city.

Don’t stay in a terrible marriage just for the kid — it never benefits anyone.