The New Orleans Pelicans and Alvin Gentry have agreed to a contract extension that could keep the Head Coach on the sidelines through the 2020-21 season. According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski, Gentry’s final season isn’t guaranteed and will be performance-based, but he is receiving a raise starting next season.
Prior to sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2018 playoffs, it was announced Gentry’s team option on his initial contract would be picked up for his remaining year. Obviously, that news and today’s announcement should surprise no one as the Pelicans took a gigantic step forward following two lackluster seasons.
“We are thrilled to have Alvin as our head coach,” said Demps. “He did a tremendous job last season. When we faced adversity, Alvin and his staff continually discovered ways to place the team in situations where we could be successful. I want to thank Mrs. Benson for her endless support and look forward to working with Alvin and his coaching staff as we strive to have sustained success.”
Gentry led the Pelicans to one of the most successful campaigns in franchise history during the 2017-18 season, finishing the regular season with a 48-34 record and advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals for just the second time in franchise history. The 48 regular season wins were the third highest total in franchise history. New Orleans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in four games during the first round, becoming first team seeded sixth or lower to sweep a first-round playoff series since the 2001 Charlotte Hornets. The Pelicans saw a 14-win increase in 2017-18 over their 2016-17 win total, the largest jump in the Western Conference, and the second largest in the NBA behind Philadelphia (24 games).
Gentry arrived in New Orleans three years ago and promised the Pelicans would “play a lot faster” and get Anthony Davis out into the open court, where it was believed the superstar would be able to inflict the most damage upon opponents. While the team did substantially increase the pace, winning basketball did not follow. New Orleans missed the playoffs in Gentry’s first two years at the helm, posting a combined dismal record of 64 wins against 100 losses.
That all changed in 2017-18. For the first time, a Gentry-led squad didn’t stumble out of the gates. Just past the halfway point, New Orleans stood 27-21, but the team had hit its stride in January by winning seven of eight that included a monumental victory over the previously unbeaten triumvirate of Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets. Then tragedy struck, ending DeMarcus Cousins season prematurely and many surmising the Pelicans playoff hopes as well.
While the team did initially struggle — losing five of six games — the Pelicans quickly recovered thanks to a change in strategies on the fly. No longer able to run a lot of offense through the two most talented big men in the Association, New Orleans increased the pace by more than three possessions per game, and when forced to operate in the half court, Rajon Rondo was handed the keys to the Ferrari. Defensively, the improved versatility of the starting lineup was utilized to its maximum potential by switching on nearly all opponent actions.
At the heart of all these changes sat Alvin Gentry and his coaching staff. Incidentally, many of them can be expected to return for next season.
The Pelicans’ well-regarded assistant coaching staff, including associate head coach Darren Erman, Chris Finch and Fred Vinson, also had their contract options picked up for next year.
With Finch given the freedom to manipulate the offense, Erman remaining in steadfast control of the defense, and Gentry managing his group similar to Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans went on to enjoy their third most successful regular season in franchise history, but raised eyebrows across NBA fandom by dismantling the Trail Blazers in the first round.
Indeed, for as long as Anthony Davis remains in New Orleans and is happy with the process and results, Gentry deserves to stand on the sidelines alongside one of the best players in the league and get at least two guaranteed years to see if the franchise has scratched the surface of something special.
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