Gentry dismissal appropriate but Pelicans must now grow up and step up
Coaches lose their jobs when they do not win.
Alvin Gentry did not win in New Orleans and he has lost his job.
The dismissal is appropriate, despite the issues certainly not all being those of Gentry.
Players did not perform to the levels they were expected to perform at overall.
Yes, there were bright spots, including the emergence of Brandon Ingram and the constant infusion of hustle and energy from Josh Hart. Of course, there is the promise of Zion Williamson.
Still, the final analysis led to an undeniable, inescapable conclusion. New Orleans needed a different voice in the most important leadership position.
The evidence mounted was simply too much to ignore.
There was a sizeable sample to off of. No one can make the argument that Gentry did not have a chance to prove himself, having spent five seasons at the helm.
The record spoke for itself, going 175-225 (.438). There was one playoff appearance, in the 2017-18 season when the Pelicans, led by Anthony Davis, swept Portland in the opening round before falling in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Gentry regime was marked by the “what if” preposition.
What if DeMarcus Cousins had not gotten hurt in the 2017-18 season? Would he and Davis have stayed together and formed a very formidable, sizeable dynamic duo which would give New Orleans a chance at being a championship contender?
What if the Pelicans had not been ravaged by injuries in Davis’ final season following a 4-0 start? Would Davis have considered staying?
Instead, the drama of demanding a trade and the awkward nature of what followed sabotaged what could have been a promising season and future.
What if Zion Williamson had not missed 49 games this past season?
What if Derrick Favors had not missed 17 games early in the season at the same time Williamson was out and the team swooned, losing 13 straight games?
What if Lonzo Ball had played healthy from the start of the season?
What if the coronavirus pandemic had not hit? New Orleans was playing well, having won 21 of 34 games prior to that occurring.
Gentry and the Pelicans were committing to playing fast and building a roster that could play fast.
While the team scored, it had trouble stopping the opponent from scoring.
The Pelicans were fourth in pace but just 14th in scoring efficiency and 20th in defensive efficiency, ranked 20th in net ranking.
While the team was seventh in 3-point field goal percentage, the Pelicans were 29th in free throw percentage, an awful statistic. Only two players—JJ Redick and Brandon Ingram, shot better than 75 percent from the line.
On top of that, the Pelicans could not take care of the basketball, finishing 29th in turnover percentage.
The Pelicans did rebound well at times and had little or no rim protection.
Their on-the-ball defense was not good and there was frequent confusion on picks and switching.
If there was any doubt about Gentry returning, that doubt was erased in Orlando.
Despite having a young, motivated team with lots to play for, New Orleans played poorly, often very poorly in the seeding games, going 2-6 and playing terrible defense.
Gentry leaves with one year left on his contract.
On a personal level, it was hard not to like Gentry. He was a nice, amenable person, good with the media and an honest guy who wore his emotions on his sleeve.
There were the many games where opponents made in-game adjustments and the Pelicans never did.
There was the lack of motivation which was palpable.
The Pelicans started poorly in virtually every game in Orlando. Where was the sense of urgency?
On the flip side, professional athletes bear tremendous responsibility for their own motivation.
They also bear responsible for their performance.
For those who feel the Pelicans have a promising future with young players with promise, I believe that premise is correct.
For those who believe the roster is a good one, capable of competing for a championship, I believe that premise is incorrect.
Perhaps this team was not as good as many thought it would be.
Fully healthy, what would its ceiling have been?
My answer to that would be a .500 team but no better.
Of course, that would have gotten New Orleans to the playoffs.
Then again, would that have been advantageous?
As an eighth-seed, the Pelicans would most certainly have been dismissed quickly, perhaps rudely, by the Lakers.
Instead, New Orleans is in the lottery again. That is not a bad thing when you consider how lightning has struck twice in the lottery draw with Davis and Williamson.
Now, the focus turns to who the next head coach.
Will it be a coach with connections to the current Pelicans leadership, such as Tyronn Lue from his days in Cleveland or Jason Kidd from his days in Phoenix with Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin or Kenny Atkinson or Jacque Vaughn from their days in Brooklyn with Pelicans General Manager Trajan Langdon?
Will it be a person with previous head coaching experience such as Jason Kidd? What about broadcasters who want to return to coaching like Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson or some other unexpected wild card candidate?
Whoever is chosen, it will have to be someone who understands Williamson and what his abilities can be and how they can be utilized best.
Whoever is chosen should be someone with a track record of player development as New Orleans has six players 22 years old or younger. Additionally, they have a sharpshooter in Didi Louzada Silva looming as well and he is 21.
Whoever is chosen should be someone who is tougher on players, more demanding and tough-minded and will demand defensive effort. Young players need discipline and direction and are more apt to adapt and listen to authority than veteran players.
Whoever is chosen must have a meeting of the minds with Griffin and Langdon on several key issues.
What should the ideal playing weight be for Williamson? With Jrue Holiday entering the final year of a big deal, is it time to consider trading him for very good value? Do you want to spend money to re-sign Favors? Is Ball your point guard for many years to come or do you feel Nickeil Alexander Walker has the ability to be a lead guard?
There are a glut of guards on the roster who can play and not enough minutes to go around, when you add E’Twaun Moore to the mix of Hart, Ball, Redick, Jackson, Holiday and Alexander-Walker.
It was time for a change.
Gentry was hamstrung, at times.
In his tenure, the Pelicans used a total of 140 starting lineups, the most of any team in the league over the last five seasons.
Gentry did not get any breaks but simply did not do enough to distinguish himself as a coach to take a young roster into the future. Here is wishing him well.
Here is wishing good luck to Griffin and Langdon to make the right call about who will steer the ship now.
Still, each player on the team should take a look at himself and ask if he truly gave it all for Gentry. If not, the time to mature and to grow up is now.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…