The New Orleans Pelicans power structure will remain in place entering the 2017-18 season.
General manager Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry have both retained their posts, owner Tom Benson and senior vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis confirmed Monday.
“After careful and thorough review of basketball operations, we have made the determination that the best course of action as we move forward into the 2017-18 season is to continue under the leadership of general manager Dell Demps and head coach Alvin Gentry,” Loomis said in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate important roles on both the administrative and coaching staffs which will be resolved at the appropriate time.”
A league source said while ownership approved the retention of the Pelicans’ top brass, the franchise has “high expectations” entering the upcoming season.
Both Demps and Gentry are already under contract and have been operating in their roles continuously, including appearances at last week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago. Gentry is slated to be the franchise’s representative during Tuesday night’s draft lottery.
This ensures Demps will direct his seventh full offseason for New Orleans, since replacing Jeff Bower in July of 2010. The franchise is 236-322 (.424) under Demps’ direction, including playoff appearances in 2011 and 2015.
League sources indicated his February trade to acquire DeMarcus Cousins, pairing him alongside All-Star forward Anthony Davis, played a significant role in Demps retaining his position.
Sources said the importance was not only because of adding an elite center to a small-market team for the reasonable package of Buddy Hield, a protected draft pick and a pair of expiring contracts, but also because the Pelicans sought to provide a dose of stability around Cousins as he enters the final year of his contract.
“We certainly saw an uptick in the energy around the team since (Cousins) got here,” team president Dennis Lauscha said on March 31. “We’ve seen a big uptick in renewals, and we’ve seen an uptick in sponsorships already. Listen, he’s been great for the organization. He’s a great guy, and he’s already volunteered to do community stuff. We love having him as a part of our organization.”
Cousins’ arrival also helped buoy Gentry’s job status.
Gentry, who replaced Monty Williams following the Pelicans’ 2015 playoff appearance, has compiled a 64-100 record in two seasons, finishing at least eight games out of the No. 8 spot both times. Still, league sources indicated Gentry’s developing relationship with Cousins was an important factor in the decision to retain the coach for a third season.
Cousins led the NBA in technical fouls (17) when New Orleans acquired him, but was assessed with just one — and another which was rescinded — in his 17 Pelicans appearances, which Gentry pointed to as a sign of the emotional Cousins properly channeling his passion.
“I think he’s a guy who you have to let him be him,” Gentry said on The Vertical podcast last week. “But the communication part is really important, I found out with him. I think you have to be totally up front. He’s not a guy that you can B.S. I think you have to be totally upfront and totally honest with him.”
It’s partly why Gentry expected to return, despite media chatter about his potential dismissal that percolated over the past several months.
“I feel like I’ll be back,” Gentry said on The Vertical podcast. “I feel like, just given a healthy team and a training camp and an opportunity to play the roster we’re going to have in a preseason schedule is going to be important. I feel we can be successful.”
And the pressure is officially on to do so.
Throughout the season, Pelicans executives publicly insisted winning is paramount, meaning it’s unlikely either Demps or Gentry can survive another losing season. But, they’ll be given the opportunity in 2017-18 to turn the fortunes of the franchise around, built on a Davis-Cousins nucleus.
“Our organizational expectations and goals have not changed and all of our efforts are focused on putting together a playoff caliber roster entering training camp and ultimately into the season,” Benson said in a statement. “The end result as we move forward — playoffs and winning a championship for our fans.”