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New Orleans Pelicans adding Mike D’Antoni, Jarron Collins to Willie Green’s coaching staff

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D’Antoni’s offensive genius and Collins spending last two seasons as Golden State’s defensive coordinator should be a big boost

NBA: Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans are adding Mike D’Antoni and Jarron Collins to the coaching staff. D’Antoni will serve in a consultant’s role, while Collins will become the lead assistant to Head Coach Willie Green.

The two are joining assistant coaches Casey Hill, Fred Vinson and Teresa Weatherspoon, along with player development coaches Corey Brewer, Darnell Lazare and Beno Udrih on Green’s staff.

“This is a cohesive group of high-character individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets,” said Green. “I’m confident that their coaching and playing experience at the highest professional and collegiate levels, combined with their work ethic and team-focused approach, will help build the foundation we need to be successful.”

Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson was the first to report the Collin’s hire on Twitter and ESPN’s Adrian Wojanarowski broke the D’Antoni news today.

D’Antoni has stood on NBA sidelines since 1997, only taking a break during the 2001-02 season when he went to Italy and guided Benetton Basket.

D’Antoni is most famous for his “Seven Seconds or Less” teams in Phoenix, helping guide Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and numerous other key contributors on Suns teams from 2003-08. While he never reached an NBA Finals, D’Antoni is credited with immensely popularizing the run-and-gun style.

One important detail to note besides his offensive genius, D’Antoni is very familiar with David Griffin, per Christian Clark’s article on Nola.com.

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin and D’Antoni know each other from their time with the Suns. Griffin got his start with the organization and spent 17 years there before he became the Cleveland Cavaliers general manager in 2014.

While D’Antoni is a known commodity in all NBA circles, Jarron Collins is not. After his playing career ended and he subsequently worked for the Clippers as a scout during the 2013-14 season, Collins joined the Warriors as a player-development coach for the following campaign, coinciding with the debut of the Steve Kerr era in Golden State.

Collins would go on to remain with the Warriors for another six years, elevating to an assistant coach in 2015 and then to defensive coordinator for 2019; however, he and the Warriors mutually parted ways this past June so that he could “pursue head-coaching and associate-head-coach opportunities,” per Marc Spears.

Collins has interviewed for NBA head-coaching jobs with the Chicago Bulls in 2020, the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019 and Atlanta Hawks in 2018. He also turned down a lead assistant-coaching job under current Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins in 2019.

As mentioned above, Collins’ forte is defense and he quickly established a decent track record. Although the Warriors finished 26th in defensive rating during the 2019-20 season, there were discernible improvements in that campaign before Golden State improved to 5th this past season.

Missing Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, while having Draymond Green and Kevon Looney in and out of the lineup regularly, Collins made changes to Golden State’s traditional switch-heavy system. This was best evidenced in a 2019 upset of the Rockets on Christmas Day where James Harden saw double teams on nearly every possession, resulting in one free throw attempt and finishing well below his season-scoring average for the contest.

After the game, Green lauded Collins for a “f—king phenomenal” game plan. On a national stage, Collins had out-thought one of the most explosive scorers in NBA history, providing a blueprint for other teams to limit Harden.

While relatively new to the coaching ranks, Collins had learned how to develop smart game plans in stopping opponents during the course of his long playing career.

“For a player like myself, I had no choice: I had to think the game out there,” said Collins, who lasted 10 seasons in the NBA despite never averaging more than 6.4 points per game. “I didn’t have the level of athleticism that other guys had, but I could execute a game plan and do what my coaches asked me to do.”

This relentless preparation has fueled his rise as an NBA assistant. Less than halfway through his first season overseeing the Warriors’ defense, Collins has gotten a young, unheralded group to care about the principles — positioning, communication, effort — that allowed a late second-round pick from Stanford to make life difficult on the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

Ron Adams is considered to be one of the best defensive minds to ever sit on the coaching sidelines. After he was granted a reduced role with the Warriors before the start 2019-20 season, Collins was entrusted to fill Adams’ shoes in games that he missed. By all accounts, Collins did a wonderful job, but now he’ll be tasked with motivating Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the rest of the Pelicans to improve upon their 23rd defensive rating.

“He’s an excellent coach and a wonderful human being,” Steve Kerr told The Undefeated in a statement. “It’s going to be different without him around, but he deserves the chance to continue his growth with the goal of ultimately becoming a head coach in the NBA. Jarron has all the skills necessary. He’s a great teacher and communicator, he’s smart and funny, and he knows the game.”

So, the Pelicans are adding two coaches who know basketball inside and out, one lauded for his offensive genius while the other for his sharp defensive contributions on the respected Warriors.

Sure sounds like a darn good duo to pair up with first-time head coach Willie Green, right?

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.