It’s been 10 months since a champagne drenched Alvin Gentry looked into the camera on national television and told Anthony Davis “we’re going to be right back here next year.”
The “we” he was referring to were the Pelicans.
The “here”, of course, was in a locker room celebrating an NBA championship.
Gentry, an assistant at Golden State at the time, made the statement in the midst of celebrating with the newly crowned NBA champion Warriors.
He had recently been named head coach of the Pelicans and showed his optimism on just where he thought AD and Company could possibly do this season.
An NBA title, of course, seemed like a long shot, making you wonder at the time if Gentry had drank too much of the bubbly stuff that had been flowing in the locker room that night.
But a legitimate playoff run, or at least a playoff appearance, didn’t seem so far-fetched.
Those chances never got off the ground in Gentry’s first season in New Orleans. The injury bug bit the Pelicans from the time the season started and never stopped biting.
The Pelicans lost their first six games and 10 of the first 11 and never recovered.
So who could blame Gentry for saying that this is the kind of season you just want to flush down the toilet and move on to the next season?
That’s how Gentry described the season on Thursday, one night after the Pelicans wrapped up a dismal 30-52 season.
Heck, even the team’s biggest accomplishment this season, Davis’ league-best 59 point outing against Detroit, got one-upped when Kobe went for 60 in his swan song on Thursday night.
That was just a few hours after the Pelicans’ 144-109 loss to the Timberwolves.
It was the worst loss of the season, perhaps a symbolic cleansing to get all of the mess out of the Pelicans’ system going into next season.
It was a regular season finale that showed just how much a difference a year can make.
Remember, it was exactly a year ago on Friday that the Pelicans played their 2015 regular season finale.
The Spurs were in town.
The Smoothie King Center was rocking.
Win and the Pelicans were in the playoffs.
Lose and they’d go home.
They did the former, knocking off the then-defending NBA champion Spurs 108-103, setting off a massive celebration.
April 15, 2015 was a landmark day in the franchise’s history, ending a four-year playoff drought.
AD, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Norris Cole all played big that night.
But what a difference one year can make.
None of those guys were even around for the finale this year, all missing out because of injuries in a season the team had to use 42 different starting lineups.
That’s the equivalent of switching lineups every other game.
“If you were a college student, this would be an incomplete,” said Gentry, grading this season. “Because it’s so tough to judge anything that went on this year. Collectively we never were able to stick the team out there on the floor — not for one minute — that we thought that we would have.”
How many of those pieces will return next season remains to be seen as the team goes through one of the most important offseasons in team history.
It’s a pivotal time for the Pelicans.
Or else Gentry’s words from last June could have a whole another meaning.
“We’re going to be right back here next year.”