As one of the few, if any, people who have been in the same position as Alvin Gentry, Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has a word of advice: Enjoy the moment you’re in, and remember what it feels like when you get to your next job.
Like Gentry, who was hired last Saturday as the new coach of the Pelicans but is still fulfilling his duties as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, Budenholzer was named to the same position with the Hawks in 2013 just before the San Antonio Spurs, where he was an assistant, met Miami in that year’s championship round.
Budenholzer, who remained with the Spurs through the Finals, which Miami won in seven games, went so far that had the Hawks wanted him right away, it could have been a deal breaker even though he’d been an assistant with the Spurs for 17 years and had never been an NBA head coach before.
“First of all, you’ve made such an incredible commitment to the team you’re with and your desire to win the NBA championship,” said Budenholzer, whose team was eliminated by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals last week. “There’s just no way you and walk away at that point.
“You do find enough time in the day to spend making some phone calls and doing other things about your next job. But mainly, you keep your focus on the job at hand and remember what its feels like to be in this position because it’s going to make you want to get back here again even more with your new team.”
This will be Gentry’s fifth time to be a head coach, but unlike Budenholzer, who was part of four title teams in San Antonio, this is his first time in his 27 years in the NBA to be part of a team that has gotten this far.
“This is the closest I’ve come to a championship,” said Gentry, who has otherwise declined to talk about his new job until he is formally introduced in New Orleans. “Nothing is going to deter from my having all of my energy directed towards that.”
Budenholzer is the only other current NBA coach to have been an assistant on the team in the Finals before joining his new team, and, he said knows of no other examples of people in his position.
Like Gentry, Budenholzer’s hiring came between after his team had advanced to the Finals.
“It was like I got two waves of congratulations,” he said. “And then when we got back to work, everybody was so focused and on the same page, but at the same time there was a lot of joking around about where my mind really was.”
Gentry’s already encountered that.
After working out details on the Pelicans coach with General Manager Dell Demps and Vice President of Basketball Operations Mickey Loomis last Saturday, Gentry flew back to Oakland early Sunday, where he spent the day working on a game plan for the Cavs that included sending clips of a few plays to Warriors’ Nick U’Ren for use at the coaches’ Monday morning film session.
But when Gentry began the session he found that U’Ren had substituted Pelicans’ highlights, including captions such as “Boy this team has potential,” and “God, this guy is GOOD,” of one featuring Anthony Davis.
“At the end of the tape, there’s a milk carton with my picture on it that says, ‘Have you seen this guy? He’s been missing in action,’ ” Gentry told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “Everybody was laughing their ass off. I’m like “OK, Ya’ll got me good.’”
And while Gentry and Pelicans General Manager have already hired the first two members of Gentry’s coaching staff, Darren Erman and Robert Pack, Budenholzer did not make any hires official until he was done with the Spurs.
“There’s always time to get those things done,” Budenholzer said. “You never know when you’re going to reach the Finals again. And when you lose in them, like we did that year, it’s great therapy to get something new going.”