New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Alvin Gentry vs. Mike Malone

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Published: May 16, 2015

Alvin Gentry

by: Chris Romaguera

Alvin Gentry’s letter of recommendation list is as impressive as anyone’s. It kind of comes off as a trailer to a movie where every actor has won or been nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe. He’s been an assistant coach for everyone from Larry Brown to Mike D’Antoni, Terry Porter, Greg Popovich (kinda), Doc Rivers and Steve Kerr.  He was the head coach for the Phoenix Suns during the 2009-’10 season where the Suns were the number one ranked offense in the league as per Offensive Rating (and not only did they lead the league, but they blew the league out, with a rating of 115.3, with the second place team having a rating of 111.9). Gentry’s last two stops have been with the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors as the lead assistant coach. Both years, the team led the league in Offensive Rating with Gentry on the sidelines.

Offense

Gentry, has worked under offensive juggernauts, and has taken from multiple systems. Gentry said during the 2010 playoffs (where he led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals), “We are not seven seconds or less. We’re 12 seconds or under. We don’t take a lot of really quick shots. We don’t play with that breakneck pace. We play with a rhythm.” Having listened to Monty Williams preach pace the past few years (then blame poor defense for not picking up the pace), having a coach that knows how to pick up the pace no matter what will be a huge advantage. Gentry has run a team that was bottom-10 on defense, but still played fast, yet efficient offense.

Analytics

Gentry has worked in analytically savvy staffs, that will enable the Pelicans to utilize more data. While Williams referenced at his end of the year press conference, that he “just started to pay attention to defensive rating,” Gentry has been working with coaches such as Kerr, Rivers, Popovich, and D’Antoni, who are no strangers to analytics. When doing the “Great Analytics Rankings” ESPN cited the New Orleans Pelicans as skeptics, despite having “invested heavily in analytics.” At the time of that article, the Pelicans had ended offensive plays in isolation more than any team not employing LeBron James, and their defense had given up many “high percentage looks”. Gentry utilizes information that Williams didn’t seem to possess or know how to utilize, that should make correcting those wrongs a lot easier.

Minutes

Unlike Monty, who played Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans into the ground sometimes, Gentry utilizes his bench and doesn’t overplay his starters. In the 2009-2010 campaign, Amare Stoudemire led the team in minutes with 34.2 per game. Ten guys averaged double digit minutes per game, and nine guys averaged 7.9 points per game or more. New Orleans won’t have to worry about Davis being run into the ground, or player’s playing big minutes through injuries under Gentry.

Defense

This year, Doc Rivers was quoted as saying “Unfortunately, I think he gets pigeonholed sometimes in just offense…He’s a good basketball coach. I don’t think Golden State’s going to have him very long.” While not having a set system in place like a Tom Thibodeau or Mike Malone, Gentry gets his team to engage. After the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals, where the Phoenix Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs, Spurs’ Head Coach Popovich was quoted as saying “One thing about Phoenix is they are better defensively than in the past. They’re much more active, much more committed; they’ve taken responsibility to a much more significant degree than ever before.”

Staff

And Gentry understands and values the importance of having a good defensive-minded assistant coach, having seen what Ron Adams has contributed to the Golden State Warriors. You can imagine the staff will be littered with strong assistant coaches that gives the Pelicans even more of an edge being the fact that he himself has been a strong assistant coach who has helped teams excel.

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The beautiful thing about Gentry’s candidacy is that you aren’t losing any of the positives of Monty Williams. Gentry gets his teams to play hard. To focus. Also, being an NBA lifer, he will have access to a lot of the same facilities and information that Monty had. Monty’s greatest strength might have been his ability to let Davis join Tim Duncan and Popovich training in the offseason. Gentry has similar connections. Davis can learn under the tutelage of a basketball lifer who can connect Davis to the rest of the league. And Gentry can connect with the entire team, having been a head coach for before, and having been in the league since 1989.

Mike Malone

by: Michael McNamara

The New Orleans defensive rating the one year Malone was here? 10th. The four years after that? 15th, 28th, 27th, 22nd. Mike Malone goes to Golden State and turns them around from the 26th ranked defense to the 14th in two years, and set the foundation in place for what became a top five defense last year and the top defense in the league this year. And then finally, he went to the toxic environment that is Sacramento and took a bottom two defense and a franchise piece that had no desire to play D, and turned them into a respectable unit (top 10 before he got fired) within 100 games. Without question, he is one of the best defensive minds available, and unlike most of the other guys who concentrate on that side of the ball (Thibodeau, Van Gundy, etc.), he is still young and has the ability to grow with AD.

And before we dive deeper into Malone’s defense, let’s make sure we don’t undersell his offense. First of all, he was the coach that got Rudy Gay to actually be somewhat efficient. Prior to coming to Sacramento, Gay was a 19 points on 18 shots kind of guy. Once Malone got his hands on him, he jumped to 20.7 points on 16.8 shots, as his true shooting percentage and his free throw rate skyrocketed under Malone. He also was the assistant in Cleveland that was actually responsible for many of the late game X’s and O’s on the offensive end. So while Malone is a defense first kind of coach, he is no slouch on the other end.

But make no mistake, if the Pelicans hire Malone it will be because they want to turn this team into an elite defense, and Malone should be able to do that now that he has more talent on that end than he had at any of his other stops. Malone is the son of Brendan Malone, who was basically responsible for the ‘Jordan Rules’ when he was an assistant with the Bad Boys Pistons. Malone, like his father, is a hard-nosed, tough-minded coach who will emphasize protecting the paint, while simultaneously defending the three-point line. Prior to Cousins getting injured this season, the Kings defense was 7th in points in the paint and 2nd in three-point defense, as opponents shot just 31.4% from behind the arc.

Remember, this was a Sacramento team that was expected to finish 14th or 15th in the West this year, and Malone had them sitting at 9-6 before Cousins went down. They came to New Orleans in game 14 and held the Pelicans to 89 points, and gave Anthony Davis more problems than anybody else had at that point of the year. Oh, and they were missing Rudy Gay in that game, but Malone pulled 22 points on 14 attempts out of Omri Casspi, who pretty much fell off the face of the earth once Malone was fired.

Despite turning around perhaps the hardest team to turn around in the NBA, Malone still got fired and this fantastic Five Thirty Eight article shows just how bogus of a decision that was, but now he is free to go somewhere that will utilize and appreciate his talents. In fact, there were rumors that his next stop could be Cleveland if the David Blatt head scratching moments continue. He will be a sought after talent, and rightfully so. In fact, Dell Demps went after him once he was fired, and offered him the job of consultant this year. He eventually chose the same position with Minnesota, but it is obvious that Dell has respect for Malone and wants him to be a part of this organization.

Malone is a young coach with plenty of experience, and he has shown that he can quickly turn defenses around while also improving guys on the offensive end. It would not be a stretch to see him turn this Pelicans defense into a top 10 unit as soon as next year, and then a top 3-5 unit shortly after that. He is young enough to grow with AD, and he will not allow this team to be paper tissue soft moving forward, especially in the middle of the defense. He has a working relationship with the man who is making the decision and checks off many of the most important boxes that Dell is looking to upgrade as he moves on from Monty Williams. In a lot of ways, Mike Malone makes just too much sense.

For previous matchups in this tournament, click here. 

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