The New Orleans Pelicans announced the firing of coach Alvin Gentry on Saturday morning after five seasons with the team. Gentry had a 175-225 coaching record while with the Pelicans, and only made the playoffs once during that span. Gentry had one year remaining on the contract he signed back in 2015 after New Orleans hired him away from the Golden State Warriors coaching staff that just won a championship. The Pelicans finished this season 30-42, which was beneath the expectations that many had for this young, talented squad.
Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin announced the decision in a statement:
"I'm grateful for and appreciative of Alvin's commitment to the organization and, most importantly, the local community. The City of New Orleans is richer because of his presence here. These types of moves are often about fit and timing, and we believe now is the right time to make this change and bring in a new voice."
Entering the NBA bubble, many picked the Pelicans to grab the final playoff spot out West, but the team underwhelmed significantly and finished the NBA restart with a 2-6 record. A coaching search will begin soon, and this will undoubtedly be a highly sought after job, as the next coach of the Pelicans will get the opportunity to coach Zion Williamson, who New Orleans drafted No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, and potentially Brandon Ingram, who was an All-Star this year but is scheduled to hit free agency this offseason.
New Orleans owner Gayle Benson also made a statement in regards to Gentry's dismissal, saying that a change was necessary:
"I want to thank Alvin for his contributions to the Pelicans and the New Orleans community. We believe that making a head coaching change is necessary at this time. I truly appreciate Alvin's leadership, dedication and perseverance through some challenging circumstances over the past five seasons. He will always be a part of our Pelicans family, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve."
The decision to move on from Gentry the summer immediately following the franchise's decision to trade perennial All-Star Anthony Davis to the Lakers signals that New Orleans is officially ready to turn the page into a new era. The Pelicans reportedly already have a few coaching candidates in mind, per the New York Times' Marc Stein. Those coaches include Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Clippers assistant Ty Lue, former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, and current Nets coach Jacque Vaughn is reportedly another name to watch if Brooklyn does not decide to keep him on as head coach after this season.
Both Lue and Kidd are seen as the front runners for this position, as Griffin has ties to both coaches. Lue was the head coach of the Cavaliers when Cleveland won the championship in 2016, and Griffin served as the team's general manager at the time. Kidd and Griffin's relationship dates back to their time with the Phoenix Suns back in the 90s.
The Pelicans have the pieces of a team that could very well make the playoffs next season, centered around a top-25 talent in Williamson. Finding the right coach who can utilize Zion's talents and bring out the best in the surrounding players like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram will be key.