If Alvin Gentry’s first few days on his new gig are anything like his last few days on his old job, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps should be grinning from ear to ear.
And who could blame Demps after watching the guy he hired last month to take over as Pelicans head coach.
In just the past 48 hours alone, Gentry, who was finishing up his duties as associate head coach of the Golden State Warriors, has already shown that he can do things that folks said couldn’t be done.
And no, I’m not just referring to Monday, when Gentry, with an assist from the wall, dunked a basketball in a video that went viral. (Not bad for a 60-year old man though, huh?)
That happened to be his final day of practice with the Warriors because of what happened on Tuesday.
That’s when Golden State finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, winning with a small-ball style of play that some said wouldn’t work. It ended 40 years of frustration for a franchise that hadn’t won a title since 1975 and put the exclamation point on one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. (Only the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls teams in 1996 and 1997 won more games in a season than this year’s Golden State team.)
For Gentry, it was his first time celebrating a title since he was an assistant at Kansas when Danny Manning and the Miracles stunned Oklahoma in 1988.
But it won’t be his last time celebrating.
At least that’s the message Gentry delivered to Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis (and the rest of the world watching) the postgame celebration.
“Hey!”AD! AD! We’re gonna be right back here,” Gentry said, letting Davis know that he expected the Pelicans, not the Warriors, celebrating next season.
Then he repeated it.
“Hey, AD!. We’re going to be right back here, OK? This is where we’re coming! All right!”
Perhaps Gentry had way more champagne than the amount that was drenching his shirt. Or perhaps he was just having fun with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr as they celebrated one last time. Or maybe he really believes the Pelicans can indeed hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history next season.
The Vegas odds, released late Tuesday night, have the Pelicans as 20-1 to win it all. The Atlanta Hawks and the Houston Rockets, who both reached their respective conference finals this season, were also listed as 20-1 favorites.
That’s behind Cleveland, Golden State, Oklahoma City, the L.A. Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls. If Gentry is indeed able to bring a title to the Big Easy, he will do so with the style that made Demps hire him in the first place: an uptempo style of play.
It was the formula Gentry implemented at Golden State this season when he was brought in to coordinate the offense for first-year head coach Kerr.
“I knew the defense was already there, and I felt like if we played faster and we got more possessions, our defense would still hold up because of the shooting and the dynamic play of Steph (Curry) in particular,” Kerr said after Game 6. “It just felt like the combination would work, and Alvin Gentry was really the biggest proponent of the pace and the combination of all that.”
It’s a style of play many thought could work well in the regular season but would fizzle out in the grind of the playoffs. But it worked just fine for the Warriors, making Gentry awfully proud Tuesday night. He gave props to Mike D’Antoni, who he coached under in Phoenix before eventually taking over as head coach.
“Tell Mike D’Antoni he’s vindicated!” Gentry told an ESPN reporter. “We just kicked everyone’s ass playing the way everybody complained about.”
But will the Pelicans be able to do the same?
A lot of that could be determined in the next few weeks with the June 25 draft and free agency. They will have to be able to put the right pieces around Davis to make a run in the brutal Western Conference.
Kerr reminded his right-hand man Gentry on Tuesday night that the Warriors didn’t plan to be some one-hit wonder.
“I can’t wait to start kicking the Pelicans’ ass,” Kerr jokingly told Gentry, according to an SI.com story.
Golden State did plenty of that during the regular season, beating the Pelicans in three of four regular season meetings and then sweeping them in the first round of the playoffs.
Gentry was on the Warriors’ bench for those.
He’s a Pelican now.