Thoughts on the Staff and the Offseason

Published: April 21, 2018

More and more will be written in time about the Offseason, but since I have seen some thoughts about it floating around in the second half of the season, I’ll go ahead and talk about some of it now.

Today, I’ll focus on the Staff. The discussion will be in two parts. First, I’ll talk about the Staff. Then, I will address the common discussion of the Staff (which you may want to ignore).

  • Assuming this series plays out the way all the data and analysis says it should as we sit here prior to Game 4, the Pelicans need to, according to my judgment:
    • Put Gentry and Demps under contract for next season
    • Announce that fact officially and with fanfare
    • Introduce Gentry at games following this announcement

Here’s why:

  • The contracts of Demps and Gentry can be ended naturally this season. They can also be extended one season. Lastly, either could have been let go prior to the end of the season in advance of the natural end of the contracts, but this didn’t happen.
  • You can call not extending a contract “firing” that person. Fine. I wouldn’t, but I can see why some would, especially when there is an option to extend the contract, since that would imply a unilateral decision to walk away from a continued relationship. I see it as honoring a contract, by both sides, whether you pick the option up or not. If the performance of either party is not acceptable, you terminate the contract or remove the person from their position while the contract remains nominally in place (which I would call firing). If it is, ride it out. If an offer you can’t refuse comes along, you don’t refuse, and you “fire” the one person because they are not as good as the other option available. Just replacing someone when their contract runs out? This is not as dramatic as any of that other stuff.
  • Neither Gentry nor Dell is at the top of their respective professions, nor do I think they are at the bottom. Gentry is an established coach. Dell entered the NBA as an up-and-comer and he’s improved. I think anyone qualified to judge will tell you the same. This is not glowing praise, and this is not damning them in any way. This is simply my evaluation of where they are among others in their profession.
  • One thing missing from most of the vitriolic or attention-seeking comments about their jobs are the actual replacements. Each person is not a real needle-mover alone, but most others are not. It’s simply a question of style and fit in most cases. Acknowledging the realities of the situation is not to advocate keeping either person in their role forever. Rather, it sets up the conditions for replacement: You want a change of fit you think will help the function of the team or organization (e.g. personality conflicts) or you wait for a significant improvement in quality. Those needle movers decide where to go, so you need to spruce up the opportunity in various ways to land one. These ways include money, power, independence, and resources.
  • The organization should periodically review if they can improve ANYTHING in their organization. They do. The fact that they can’t attract the top talent out of their current jobs is an issue with the ORGANIZATION itself, not with Gentry or Demps. It’s not just the reputation of the organization and the willful ignorance about its ownership and management structure (which is pretty simple, actually, and comments from the outside to the contrary are tactical comments in my opinion). It’s also the ability of those in the organization to make the important decisions ABOUT Dell and Gentry AND their potential replacements or assistants and make the call. THESE are the decisions that drive all other and they are simply under-discussed.
  • Why are they under-discussed? Well, they aren’t under-discussed by me or others here. Elsewhere, the top answer is just attention-seeking. Touting change is exciting and talking about firing a coach is common demagoguery. They can back that up by saying that it’s a player’s league, discussing the CBA (poorly), or talking about “the system” that they can’t describe in detail since that signals some sort of knowledge (present or not) that they wager the consumers do not possess in great numbers (also, since most “content” is just an ad for an ad, no one reads for substance and the writers know it, use it). So, it’s just an easy “move” by the people in the “game.” Another reason is: they just don’t think about it. Even if they have a business background, it’s apparently not very good because they don’t understand that it all starts at the top. Lastly, these things are just slow to change. It tells people to come back WAY later, which is counter-productive for those who are incentivized by attention (whether they are paid or not).
  • I said this past offseason, for the reasons above and more, that this season was absolutely critical for their jobs. That’s still true. I also said that if I was going to make a “send a message” type of move mid-season, I’d let go of Dell in that case. This would have made things more stable for Cousins and the actual message would be sent to the prime candidates early, perhaps whetting their appetites and starting the initial conversations for seismic decisions. I stand by that if they wanted to make a move. I was not advocating for it, nor am I now. I’m just saying if it happened, that’s they way I would do it. If they have already decided to let them go, I’d just ask them each their preference to play it out or not, and proceed accordingly. There’s no need for break-ups to be messy. It’s something for writers to write about, so they look for it to happen, but they are actually better suited by having the speculation to fuel for longer than to have a concrete fact to report one once.
  • You have the little matter of the last time you were in the Playoffs with a coach on the last year of his contract, the coach was let go. This has been noticed. You want to manage the message: manage it. Sure, it might cost you millions to pick up the option then let him go, and that’d be a PR hit, but what is stability going into Round 2 worth? What’s the message worth? After all the control exerted over how others present the message, after all the comments by players edited out of team media, it makes sense to control this.
  • Even if you want to change horses this offseason, you can. You can if a needle mover chooses New Orleans, you can if they botch the offseason, or you can just ride it out one more reason. Protect Round 2. The odds are you lose, but how you lose matters. A year of their salaries is worth it from where I sit, but it’s not my message and it’s not my money.
  • Announcing all of this will settle the media and fan chatter, or at least focus it, which you (talking to you, Pels rep reading this . . . hey!). Moreover, the announcement and introduction shows leadership in the Pelicans community, which the organization seems to aspire to be, in terms of getting some respect for the brass, including Gentry. I said it before with the radio, and this advice has been heeded ever since: You can’t expect the fans to respect your product more than you show you respect it. If you are committed to Gentry, go all in. I get that perhaps some feel it is a short-term net-positive to avoid potential boos and distraction, that you can say it keeps the focus on the players, but that’s just, as I said, short-term and short-sighted. If you respect the man, show it. Find a way to show it if Introductions is not the venue.

About the discussion:

  • For years, either just at the end of the season or throughout the season . . . such as, after most losses and after no wins . . . we see fans, media, and idiots with websites or logins predicting the firing of Gentry or Demps. Some advocate for it. Some of those offer unreasonable replacement suggestions, other offer none. They have been wrong each and every time with their predictions, largely because they have no idea what they are talking about.
    • I remember being accused (by an idiot without a website) of not having any sources and of no one having any source in the upper echelon of the organization. Both are false. Hence: idiot without a website. Idiots just assume everyone is as cutoff and stupid as they are. It’s not true. Look at the track record to see which is which, not how much someone says “lit” or talks in pictures or kisses media keester oh so softly and sweetly.
  • All contracts end, all lives end, change happens. Predicting that there will be change is pure emptiness. It is already known that the claim will eventually be true. Kudos for recognizing something extremely difficult for you to realize (it doesn’t matter that it is easy for others . . . good for YOU). However, it does not mean you’ve done anything specific to the subject matter, just notice some consequences of one-directional time and the second law of thermodynamics.
  • In a busier (and better) overall content marketplace, just beware those selling style without substance. They bristle and any real challenge on their content, because it’s hollow. It’s all image, illusion. There’s nothing solid. Echoing trends, then offering some softly contrarian opinion is good analysis. Contrarianism is adopted by these folks because it stirs up controversy, and they are often wrong, so that appears to be how the smart folks operate. In truth, if you are wrong all the time, the anything right appears contrarian . . . it’s just a conditioned response to tie the two together. At any rate, just try to discern what it is you are: a consumer of content or the product itself being delivered to some ad company.


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