NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans have decided that 60-year-old NBA coaching veteran Alvin Gentry is the best candidate to mould a young roster featuring 22-year-old budding superstar Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans hired the Golden State assistant Saturday night. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
“We conducted an extensive coaching search that identified Alvin Gentry as the right person to lead our team,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said in a statement. “Alvin is a well-respected coach that brings many years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, creativity and leadership.”
Gentry will remain with Golden State until the Warriors complete the NBA Finals against Cleveland.
“I’m truly honoured for the opportunity to lead the Pelicans as their head coach and am anxious to get started,” Gentry said in a statement. “However, my responsibilities with the Pelicans will begin immediately after the NBA Finals are completed. Until then, my complete focus for the next two-plus weeks will be with the Warriors and the NBA Finals.”
Gentry has served as a head coach four times, compiling a career record of 335-370. His most successful tenure came in Phoenix, where he went 158-144 in five seasons. He took the Suns to the 2010 Western Conference finals, where they lost to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Now he get to coach a team which is coming off its first playoff berth in four season and is led by the dynamic, 6-foot-10 Davis, who is already two-time All-Star, as well as an Olympic gold medallist and FIBA World Cup champion.
Gentry succeeds Monty Williams, who was fired despite making the playoffs this season as the Western Conference’s eighth and final seed. The Pelicans were swept by the Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs, but three of the four games were close down the stretch, and one went to overtime.
“We are thrilled to have Alvin join our organization,” Pelicans owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “He has proven himself as a winner and is in the midst of helping the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. We look forward to having him lead our team.”
The hiring is the first by Demps, who joined the franchise shortly after Williams had been hired during the 2010 off-season, the club was under different ownership.
During the past five years that Williams coached, he and Demps seemed to operate as equals in the chain of command. But on the day Williams was fired, Pelicans executive vice-president Mickey Loomis said he prefers a clear hierarchy in which the coach reports to the general manager, and the general manager reports to ownership.
Loomis, who is also general manager of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, limits his role with the Pelicans to that of a senior adviser to Benson, who owns both teams, and he made it clear that Demps would be in charge of selecting the new coach.
Now Demps will be accountable for the Pelicans’ performance under Gentry, and his fortunes in the Big Easy could hinge on how much confidence he inspires in Davis, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract. Davis could sign a five-year extension as early as this July, but he also could choose to wait until next summer, when his options would include playing for a one-year qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. The latter scenario would allow him to test unrestricted free agency as early as the summer of 2017.
Gentry also had been a head coach with the Los Angeles Clippers (2000-03), Detroit (1997-2000) and Miami (1994-95). He served as Doc Rivers’ top assistant with the Clippers last season.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr hired Gentry as his associate head coach and offensive co-ordinator when he came to the Warriors last May. Kerr is a former Phoenix general manager.
“I’m extremely happy for Alvin and wish him the best of luck in this new challenge,” Kerr said in a statement. “He’s had a tremendous impact on the success of our team this season and, personally, has been instrumental in my development as a coach. His experience as a head coach in the NBA has been invaluable during my first season and will, likewise, serve the Pelicans well as they move forward.”
AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.
Brett Martel, The Associated Press