The New Orleans Pelicans envisioned something completely different than their current situation when they hired Alvin Gentry to the head coach position. Just over a year at the job, and Gentry could end up being the first coach fired this NBA season.
We can talk all day long about the luck factor and the injuries that keep hitting this team, last season and this season. The bottom line is that the Pelicans fired a coach (Monty Williams) that took them to the playoffs for the first time in the Anthony Davis era (2015) and hired Gentry, a so-called offensive genius who was an assistant at the Golden State Warriors before the hiring, to take the Pelicans up a level or two.
It hasn’t been working out. Davis was supposed to be an MVP-caliber player under Gentry, hitting 3-pointers and basically becoming the best player in the NBA. But he missed 21 games last season, and didn’t really seem to improve in any specific way. He did shoot from beyond the arc after completely avoiding it earlier in his career, making 32.4% of his shots. But his long range stroke has abandoned him so far this season, when it looks like he’s slowly losing patience with carrying this team on his back day in and day out.
Gentry finished last season 30-52. None of the key players had more than 65 games. A lost season, an unlucky season. But the people above Gentry in the hierarchy can’t keep working through the assumption that things will be fine when everyone comes back. This season, as the Pelicans are an NBA-worst 1-9 through 10 games despite Davis averaging 31.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans still haven’t played once. Davis’ best teammates so far have been E’Twaun Moore, Tim Frazier and Buddy Hield. The losses are understandable, but excuses can’t carry someone forever.
The Pelicans are obviously denying that Gentry is on the hot seat or anything like that, but it’s hard to believe that it’s not crossing their mind. Gentry hasn’t had much success as an NBA head coach throughout the years except when he was working with Steve Nash at Phoenix. Some people, even offensive geniuses, are better at advising a head coach and seeing things from that angle than being the captain of the ship.
But the problem for the Pelicans is deeper than Gentry. Even if he is fired, which means getting all of his $13.75 million over four years (one of the cheaper HC contracts in the NBA), the Pelicans still have massive roster problems. Players coming back from injury will help them, but it might already be too late for them to catch the train to the playoffs, or even get better by too much. That leads to problems with Davis, but that’s a subject for a different time and post.