He plans to live “the New Orleans way” this time around. But he’ll coach the Alvin Gentry way, a formula that helped Golden State win the NBA title last week.
The Gentry era officially began Monday when he was formally introduced as the Pelicans’ new head coach at the team’s practice facility in Metairie.
For the 60-year-old, who was accompanied by his wife, Suzanne, and his sons Ryan, 17, and Jack, 15, it will be a return to the Big Easy, where he was an assistant under Tim Floyd during the 2003-04 season. The Gentrys lived in Slidell during that brief stint.
This time, he plans to live in the Warehouse District, right in the heart of the city.
“We didn’t do it the New Orleans way last time,” Gentry said. “We are doing it the New Orleans way this time.”
He’ll be closer to the Smoothie King Center, where he plans to bring the up-tempo style that has been his trademark throughout his 35 years as a coach.
“I’d like nothing more than for us as Pelicans to have a parade right down Canal Street,” he said. “I think it’s very attainable. We have a good start because we have a good core of players and a great player. I’m ecstatic about being here.”
The Pelicans had to wait to get Gentry aboard.
He was hired May 30 but was finishing up his job as associate head coach of the Warriors, who won their first NBA title since 1975.
He attended the Warriors’ parade celebrating their championship Friday and flew to New Orleans on Saturday. He got a chance to walk around the city Sunday.
“I like it because it’s so different from any city you can go to,” Gentry said. “To me, the most unique cities in the United States are San Francisco and New Orleans. I think it has almost a foreign country feel to it because the culture is so different and so great.”
Gentry is hoping to bring that winning formula from the Bay Area to New Orleans as he replaces Monty Williams, who was fired May 12 after five seasons. Gentry is the franchise’s sixth coach, following Paul Silas, Tim Floyd, Byron Scott, Jeff Bower and Williams.
Gentry credited Williams for laying the groundwork for the Pelicans, who reached the first round of the NBA playoffs as a No. 8 seed before being swept in the first round by the Warriors.
“Monty established a culture here of competitiveness, competing every single night,” Gentry said. “I thought that was obvious in the playoff series we had against them.”
Gentry’s job is to help the Pelicans take the next step and eventually lead the franchise to its first NBA title. He will rely heavily on the Pelicans’ centerpiece, all-NBA forwardAnthony Davis. It’s Davis who made the Pelicans’ job one of the more lucrative ones this offseason.
“We have the best player in the NBA not named LeBron James,” Gentry said. “This team has a lot of potential to do a lot of great things. We are going to play a lot faster and give him a chance to play in the open court.”
This is the fifth head coaching job for Gentry. His most recent head coaching position was with the Phoenix Suns from 2008-13. He also had head coaching stops with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Detroit Pistons and the Miami Heat.
His best season as a head coach was in 2009-10, when he led Phoenix to the Western Conference finals before losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
As an assistant, his team has led the league in scoring the past two seasons — Golden State this season and the Clippers in 2013-14, when he was an assistant under Doc Rivers. Those numbers, along with his teams’ quick pace, made Gentry attractive to General Manager Dell Demps.
“We wanted a coach who could adapt and consistently change with the NBA game,” Demps said. “We believe Alvin will provide the Pelicans the best opportunity to achieve continued success. … He had a great understanding of the team along with a vision of how he would coach the team. It was very clear that Alvin was the right person for the Pelicans.”
But Gentry was quick to point out that his up-tempo style won’t be one-dimensional, run-and-gun.
“We are going to be a very good defensive team that happens to be good offensively,” he said.
Gentry is described by those around the league as a players’ coach. Players tend to relate well to him, even though his coaching career began in 1980 — before every player on the Pelicans’ roster was born. He turns 61 in November but showed off his youthfulness last week when he dunked (after pushing off the wall with his leg) during his final practice with the Warriors. The video of that dunk went viral.
“Sixty is the new 40,” he said with a laugh. “I have a ton of energy. … I believe basketball has to be fun. We are going to do a lot of things to make it fun.”
The team will have music playing during practice, just like Golden State did during its laidback approach that ended with an NBA title. Gentry would like nothing more than to have the same result here.
“Why can’t this be our time?” he said. “No one is more deserving than this city.”
It’s a city that he returns to work in for the first time in more than a decade. For wife Suzanne, it’s a return to her roots. Her great grandmother ran a boarding house in New Orleans years ago. Her grandmother and family were from Bienville Parish, and her mom was born in Ruston.
But Suzanne and the boys will remain in Arizona for one more year — Ryan’s senior year of high school.
Gentry, meanwhile, will get started with his new job: living the New Orleans way but coaching his way.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I don’t want to be any place but right here.”