Jeff Van Gundy didn’t get the Pelicans job that he was interested in.
Instead, it went to Alvin Gentry.
But Van Gundy, the former coach and current television analyst believed to be a finalist of the job, doesn’t think Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps went wrong with the guy he chose.
“I think the hiring of Alvin Gentry is a really good hire,” Van Gundy said Monday during a conference call. “The foundation is so solid because of the job that Monty (Williams) has done; and then you have Anthony Davis’ greatness, and also his character. I think Dell Demps has done a good job building the roster.”
Van Gundy sees it as a hire that could last a long time with a player like Davis, the centerpiece of the franchise.
“(Davis) could be Tim Duncan and could stay and play for a long time with one coach,” Van Gundy said. “Alvin can ride this for a decade if they get the right pieces around him.”
Gentry, currently the associate head coach of the Golden State Warriors, was named Pelicans head coach Sunday. He will coach the Warriors in the NBA Finals that begin Thursday before taking over his duties with the Pelicans. He replaces Williams, who was fired after five seasons.
Van Gundy said he believes the job Williams did should make the transition smoother for Gentry.
“Monty Williams had done such an incredible job of establishing a foundation and a culture,” Van Gundy said. “If you think about what that organization had been through. The forced trade of Chris Paul; the injury to Eric Gordon; the injuries to Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans along the way. He had a good first year. They’re forced to trade Chris Paul and they built it back up.”
Mark Jackson, who serves as Van Gundy’s broadcast partner, agrees and thinks Williams was perhaps let go too soon.
“You can’t take away what Monty Williams has been able to do with that New Orleans team,” Jackson said. “Sometimes you can make changes too fast and it can hurt you in the long run. You don’t appreciate what a masterful job he did in the course of a year. Alvin Gentry is an outstanding coach, an outstanding offensive mind, and I’m sure he will do a great job in New Orleans.”
Gentry, in his first season at Golden State, helped the Warriors have the best scoring average in the league this season. He was an assistant with the Clippers last season, and they also led the league in scoring.
He was hired because of his team’s up-tempo style of play, which could help Davis put up even bigger numbers than the 244 points he scored this season on his way to being named first team All-NBA.
But Van Gundy said the coach doesn’t really matter when you have a player of Davis’ caliber.
“I took over and got Patrick Ewing in his prime, Van Gundy recalled. “I made 100 mistakes that he covered up because his greatness so superseded most guys we played. You don’t hire a guy to bring out the best in a Hall of Fame player. Anthony Davis could be coached by someone off the street, and that dude is going to average 25 (points) and 11 (rebounds) and going to the Hall of Fame.
Van Gundy said fans shouldn’t be too concerned with Gentry’s 335-370 career record in head coaching stops with the Miami Heat, the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns.
“Your record is reflective of your roster,” Van Gundy said. “If you’ve got good players, you’re going to win. If you’ve got bad players, you’re going to lose. He had bad teams and bad players in his first stops, and I think he got the most out of them. I thought he squeezed everything out of Phoenix with Steve Nash, the Hall of Fame guard. Now he is getting another Hall of Fame player in Anthony Davis, and I think he is going to do a terrific job. The fans of New Orleans should be excited about their star player and their head coach.”