The final two spots on new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry’s staff were filled by assistants who are familiar to the team’s players.
Four days after Gentry was hired, news surfaced that Darren Erman would be Gentry’s associate head coach in charge of defense, and New Orleanian Robert Pack would be the backcourt specialist. At Gentry’s introductory news conference Monday, Kevin Hanson and Fred Vinson, holdovers from the staff of fired coach Monty Williams, were presented as the other two members of Gentry’s staff.
Both said they had been told by General Manager Dell Demps soon after Williams was fired that there might be a spot for them on Gentry’s staff. Asked when he found out he was on the staff, Hanson said “this morning.”
“I had a pretty good inclination that I would be,” Hanson said. “Dell told me it was more of a second meeting I had to have with Alvin to make sure that he was comfortable with me. Right after the news got out about Monty’s firing, (Demps) let me in on the fact he’d like to have me back.”
Gentry said he was impressed with Hanson’s work in developing Anthony Davis and Vinson’s efforts in improving the shooting of Tyreke Evans.
“I saw no reason to change,” Gentry said. “It’s kind of like golf in that, if you have the same person teaching you, then you have a chance to advance. But if one guy is telling you one thing and then the next day someone is telling you something else, then I think it has a tendency to stymie your growth. One of the selling points to me is AD thinks he’s learned so much from Kevin and it’s advanced his game. And I look at Tyreke and the way his shot has developed over the last couple of years.”
Gentry said improving the Pelicans’ defense was at the top of his list. Williams was defense-oriented, but the Pelicans finished last season 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, even though they ranked 11th in opponent’s points per game.
Making that improvement is being entrusted to Erman, who led the Boston Celtics’ defense last season and, before that, Golden State’s. A film guru whom Gentry said is a great communicator, Erman is rooted in the system of Clippers coach Doc Rivers and ex-Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the defensive coach while they were with Boston.
“I don’t want to be generic, but a lot of it is playing hard and being on the same page in being in the right spots and knowing where everyone is going to be,” Erman said. “Whatever philosophy you have, you’ll be fine. But a lot of times, if you’re confused on defense, the guards aren’t on the same page as the (big men) or you don’t go hard enough … then defense is going to break down. You want to limit your breakdowns.”
He said having Davis, the NBA’s shot-block leader the past two seasons, is intriguing, but his development in a team concept is what’s most important.
Pack, a 1987 Lawless High graduate who started his 14-year NBA career as an undrafted free agent in 1991, was known for his intensity. He coached with Oklahoma City the past two seasons but was not retrained by new coach Billy Donovan. Pack was a New Orleans Hornets assistant under Paul Silas in 2009-10 and also coached under Rivers from 2010 to 2013.
“Robert was a great defensive player in this league, one of the best at his position,” Gentry said. “I think he thoroughly understands the game, the point guard position he’s played. So he has an understanding of what needs to be done, fighting over screens and things like that.”
Gentry also introduced Elvis Valcarcel, who does not yet have a specific role, and said he would add one more assistant coach.
“(Valcarcel) was with me in Phoenix,” Gentry said. “He’s done video, administrative stuff.
“I wanted good people. I wanted hard-working people. I wanted energy guys.”