Alvin Gentry may still be in place, but not everything is going to look the same on the Pelicans’ bench.
Denver Nuggets’ assistant Chris Finch will be joining Gentry’s staff, league sources confirmed to The Advocate on Friday afternoon. He replaces New Orleans native Robert Pack, who is trying to pursue a head coaching career in the NBA Gatorade League (formerly known as the D-League), according to his agent Warren LeGarie.
“It’s certainly not about the place, because Robert loves New Orleans,” LeGarie told The Advocate. “It’s just about trying to move forward in his career and find a path to being a head coach.”
Sources from both sides presented the split as amicable.
Pack, who graduated from Alfred Lawless High School in 1987, spent 13 seasons as an NBA point guard before transitioning into the coaching ranks, where he made two stints with New Orleans in between tenures with the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, it appears Pack is trying to pave a different path, hoping to carve out an eventual opportunity as an NBA head coach.
Meanwhile, Gentry adds a twist to his coaching staff, in an attempt to squeeze out more scoring.
Finch has built a reputation as an offensive specialist, helping spur the Nuggets to the league’s best offensive rating after the 2017 All-Star break (112.6 points per 100 possessions). And his job in New Orleans is fairly straightforward: Maximize the combination of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins to boost the Pelicans’ offense.
New Orleans finished with the NBA’s fifth-worst offensive rating last year, averaging just 103.3 points per 100 possessions, despite Davis earning a spot on the first-team All-NBA squad. It was a significant drop-off from the Pelicans’ scoring production during the previous four years, when their offense never ranked worse than No. 17, even under defensive-oriented coach Monty Williams.
Finch’s NBA experience began in the D-League as a coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2009-11, before he landed a spot on the bench of the Houston Rockets. He spent five seasons with the Rockets, working under Kevin McHale and J.B. Bickerstaff, and was eventually promoted to the position of associate head coach in 2014.
In between, he served as Great Britain’s coach in the 2012 London Olympics.
Last offseason, Finch was hired by Nuggets coach Mike Malone to serve as his associate head coach, where he helped transform Denver into an offensive juggernaut. Pelicans defensive specialist Darren Erman currently holds the associate head coach title under Gentry, but sources said Finch will have a significant say on the team’s offensive approach.
Finch helped develop Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic into a diverse threat last season, unlocking the skilled center and making him the focus of Denver’s high-powered offense. Now, the Pelicans hope he can do the same with Cousins and Davis, bucking the league’s 3-point shooting trend along the way.