Since trading for DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans have gone 4-7 – and one of those wins came with Cousins suspended. New Orleans has scored just 91.1 points per 100 possessions when Cousins and Anthony Davis share the court – nine points worse than the 76ers’ league-worst offensive rating. The Pelicans are 5.5 games and four teams out of playoff position.
New Orleans needs a scapegoat.
Enter coach Alvin Gentry.
A league source told Sporting News that though no definite decision has been made on the future of the tandem of Gentry and general manager Dell Demps with the Pelicans, failure to secure that playoff spot (which has been all but lost) or at least to show “significant progress with this roster as it stands” likely will move the Pelicans to oust Gentry. Demps is more likely to stay, but that’s not a certainty, either.
The only question the Pelicans should ask: Would the best replacement coach they can hire do better than Gentry next year? If the answer is yes, fire Gentry. If no, keep him.
Gentry prefers an up-tempo offense, which will be hard to instill with Cousins and Davis. Perhaps, with an offseason to design and a preseason to implement a new offense, Gentry could get New Orleans on track. He has a sharp offensive mind, and Cousins’ and Davis’ talent could get the coach to find creative solutions outside his comfort zone. But I’d want to hear a concrete plan from Gentry before retaining him.
That said, let’s not pretend Gentry is primarily responsible for his 57-93 record in New Orleans.
This roster is lacking perimeter production, and the best guard – Jrue Holiday – will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The backup bigs are even worse, especially considering how poorly lumbering Omer Asik fits Gentry’s ideal system.
One of the main reasons the Pelicans did so well in the Cousins trade: They built such a lousy supporting cast, they had little to lose in swinging for the fences with Cousins.
This plan is full of potential pitfalls. Holiday could leave this summer. Cousins could leave next summer.
New Orleans has no choice but to hope Holiday stays. Then, the Pelicans must hope they can lure back Cousins. The key with Gentry is determining whether he’s the optimal coach for that second task.
But at what point does the franchise look at the man who put Gentry in such a difficult spot? Demps’ job security should not be higher than Gentry’s.
At least Gentry says he’s not sweating this.