Dwayne Casey, who interestingly is rumored to be on the hot seat, was announced the recipient of the Michael H. Goldberg Coach of the Year Award yesterday. It is the only honor bestowed strictly by peers — just the Association’s thirty Head Coaches get to cast ballots.
Asides Casey, seven other coaches received votes including Brett Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Nate McMillan, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Quin Snyder and Terry Stotts. Brad Stevens is noticeable missing from the list — seriously, that’s one of the most ridiculous things ever, but we’re here to give support to Alvin Gentry.
The New Orleans Pelicans finished with a record of 48-34, an improvement of 14 games from last year. The franchise made it to the semi-final round of the Western Conference playoffs for just the second time in their 16-year history, which included a sweep of the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
The offense finished 9th and the defense 13th, but the dramatic improvement on the scoring side of the ball should grab everyone’s attention. One season ago, the offensive rating wound up fifth-worst and the team averaged 104.3 points per game. This season that mark jumped up to 111.7 points per game. As we witnessed, the mere addition of DeMarcus Cousins after the 2017 All-Star Break didn’t immediately pay dividends, but once the coaching staff had the privilege of a full summer to incorporate the two-time All-NBA Second Team recipient, New Orleans offense emerged as one of the most potent units in the league.
Of course the list of accomplishments is much longer. Solomon Hill’s near season-long absence was distinctively filled by E’Twaun Moore and other makeshift small forwards. The team overcame the opening of yet another season without their starting point guard (Rajon Rondo) admirably. But perhaps most notably, Alvin Gentry and his staff were forced to make radical changes in midseason following the loss of Cousins and needing to incorporate Nikola Mirotic. After an initial adjustment period where the team lost five of six games, the Pelicans went on a 20-8 run — that included a special 10-game winning streak — to finish the season, averaged the second highest number of points (114.7) and opponents were stopped in their tracks by the fourth most effective defense.
If you may remember, the vast majority of pundits didn’t foresee the Pelicans making the playoffs during the preseason and especially after Boogie went down. However, the team not only accomplished that goal, not only made some noise in the 2018 postseason, but found an identity most befitting of this roster. Handing the keys to Rajon Rondo, having Anthony Davis man the center position, and surrounding the duo with scorers and shooters, proved to be a winning combination on both sides of the ball.
As to where New Orleans coaching staff overcame so much adversity and still found avenues to a vast amount of success, it’s puzzling why a few coaches received votes ahead of Alvin Gentry.
Plot of total games missed by injured players for each team versus team wins. Bubble size is the cumulative quality of players lost by Lost-ws metric.— Man Games Lost NBA (@ManGamesLostNBA) April 13, 2018
The @PelicansNBA did something pretty remarkable pic.twitter.com/kUhDaR0Tpp
Doc Rivers and the Clippers finished tenth in the Western Conference. Terry Stotts and the Trail Blazers finished with one more win in the regular season but were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs and enjoyed a conspicuously healthy campaign.
In my opinion, Alvin Gentry deserved at least a hint of recognition from his peers. Oh well, hopefully he’ll receive some praise later this summer when the media’s vote is announced.