Sean Payton has yet to meet Alvin Gentry, his soon-to-be counterpart on the basketball side of operations at 5800 Airline Drive. But already he’s jealous that Gentry is coming into the job off an experience Payton is now five years removed from.
“When you watch something like that, the very first feeling is jealousy because you know how great it is,” Payton, who watched his hometown Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup on Monday, the night before Golden State, where Gentry was the lead assistant, wrapped up the NBA title, said after Wednesday’s Saints minicamp session. “Just to have the opportunity to be part of what they’ve accomplished is special.
“So when the hockey game or basketball game ends, you recognize the significance of what that does for the players, the coaches and everyone in the organization. I’ve have no doubt he’s going bring that feeling here.”
That’s the idea.
In fact, Gentry, who is expected to be formally introduced Monday, more than three weeks after he was hired, will be taking over a team the oddsmakers are saying has a better chance of winning a championship next season than the Saints.
Las Vegas Sports Book on Wednesday listed the Pels at 20-1 to win the NBA championship, tying them for seventh with Atlanta and Houston — an impressive leap of faith in the continued rise of Anthony Davis. Small wonder that in the midst of the Warriors’ dressing room celebration Gentry said, “Hey, A.D., we’re going to be right here next year.”
Meanwhile, the Saints, a trendy choice for the Super Bowl last year, have dipped to a five-way tie for 18th at 40-1.
Whew. Did trading Jimmy Graham change the perception of the team that much?
But maybe a little friendly competition will help both teams.
Already the Pelicans and Saints share a unique synergy.
They’re the only NBA and NFL franchises with the same owner, Tom Benson, which are also located in the same city (Paul Allen owns both the Seahawks and Trail Blazers, but they’re in different cities).
They share the same Metairie campus, although the training facilities are in separate buildings.
In fact, about the only time the players cross paths is in the cafeteria, and that doesn’t happen too often.
“(Gentry) will be a great addition to that organization,” veteran wide receiver Marques Colston said.
“That organization?” Does the same guy sign both teams’ paychecks?
“That’s there’s not a ton of interaction,” Colston explained. “We operate on different schedules, and they’re on the road a ton. There’s not a lot of overlap.”
That’s not to say the Saints players aren’t fans. At just about every Pels game there are some there, and the video screen always manages to find them.
Running back Khiry Robinson went so far as to quit watching the playoffs after the Pels were swept by Golden State in the first round.
“I knew I had to pay more attention to my playbook,” he said.
“Last night I did check on updates on the game, but I fell asleep with my face in the playbook.”
Did you hear that, coaches?
But running back Mark Ingram, one of the most frequent Saints players at Pels games, watched throughout with an eye toward what Gentry’s aggressive offense will mean for the Pelicans.
“I hope he can bring that championship style to New Orleans,” Ingram said. “I’m sure they did due diligence in picking the new coach and coach Gentry was a staff that just won a championship.
“So I think it will be good.”
But Ingram added the Saints players pay little attention to what’s going on with the Pelicans when it comes to contracts. Maybe it’s because, on average, the NBA pays more than twice as much as the NFL ($4.9 million to $2.2) — and it’s fully guaranteed.
“If it comes on “SportsCenter” or something I might see it, but I really don’t follow what’s going on over there,” Ingram said. “I do hope A.D. signs again, though.”
Davis is expected to be offered a max contract worth $144 million, which would dwarf the $100 million deal Drew Brees got three years ago.
But money issues aside, there were mixed loyalties in the locker room over the Finals.
Linebacker Parys Haralson became a Warriors fans during his seven seasons playing for the San Francisco 49ers, so he was happy with the outcome — along with the fact that the Pelicans’ new coach played a big role in winning the championship.
“I was excited that the team I was pulling for actually won,” Haralson said. “I was watching Alvin Gentry on the bench, too. What the Warriors showed is that when you play together as a team and you do things the right way, you can be successful.”
But tight end Ben Watson, whose arrival in Cleveland in 2010 coincided with LeBron James’ departure for Miami, felt for the Cavaliers fans and LBJ.
“When LeBron left, and the way he did it, it tore the heart out of Cleveland,” Watson said. “But he’s matured so much as a man over the course of his career where everything has been public.
“So he came back home under all that pressure and you knew how much he wanted to bring them a championship. I know what he meant when he said he almost wished they hadn’t made the playoffs because when you get to that far and lose (Watson was on New England’s Super Bowl XLII team that was undefeated until the title game), your expectations are so ratcheted up that even if you lose to a better team, it’s an empty feeling.”
But, like Payton, Watson sees the arrival of Gentry as having a chance to catapult the Pelicans into the championship discussion.
“I was upset that Monty (Williams) got fired, but the name of the game is winning and that was a decision management had to make,” he said. “But I’m excited about what Alvin Gentry can do for the team and the city.
“I was at the playoff game we lost and the crowd was so loud it sounded like the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome. We’ve got an unbelievable player in A.D. and there are going to be a lot of exciting times ahead.”