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Q&A with coach Alvin Gentry

New Pelicans head coach opens up about making transition, expanding Anthony Davis' offensive game, and more

POSTED: Jul 20, 2015 2:03 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Alvin Gentry on Pelicans

Alvin Gentry joins the NBA TV to talk Pelicans basketball.

— The New Orleans Pelicans surprised some people by firing head coach Monty Williams after he got them to the playoffs last season. Williams had been able to guide his team to a 45-37 record in the tough Western Conference, despite losing a total of 177 games from his top six players.

But the Pelicans got swept in the first round by the Golden State Warriors, blowing an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 3. And despite the addition of center Omer Asik, they had ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency for the third straight season, allowing more shots near the basket than any other team.

Alvin Gentry is known as an offensive coach, but as he takes over for Williams, it's the Pelicans' defense that needs fixing most. Gentry spoke with at Summer League on Sunday about the process of taking over a new team and what changes we can expect in New Orleans. What's the process like when you take over a new team? In evaluating what needs to change and what doesn't, is there a lot of film, a lot of stats, a lot of conversations?

Gentry: Before you do that, you have to put together a staff. And after you have that staff together, you go in and look at situations that could happen. First of all, you've got to look at the players and analyze each player as to how they fit into your system. And then you have to look at your system and say, "How do we best utilize the talent that we have?" It's a combination of both things.

Alvin Gentry on The Starters

Gentry discusses what the Warriors championship meant to him and what his plans are for Anthony Davis. How much film have you watched at this point?

Gentry: I've watched a lot of it. Obviously, I watched the eight games that we played them when I was at Golden State. We played New Orleans four times in the regular season and four times in the playoffs. So I looked at all of those. And then I picked out special games, games where they played really well. And I also looked at several games where they really struggled, like the Memphis game where they were down almost 40 points. I looked at that game too. What about stats? What did you take note of?

Gentry: I looked at all of it. I looked at offensive efficiency, which they were very good at. I looked at assists-to-turnovers, which they were very good at. I looked at pace of the game, which they were really low. I looked at areas where we have to improve and areas where they were pretty good and we have to maintain. How does a team with a frontline of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik rank in the bottom 10 defensively? What do you need to change on that end?

Gentry: We've got to do something about that. First of all, we've got to get better perimeter defense out front, so that we're not getting penetration from perimeter players, which causes our bigs to be in rotation. That's the first thing that we've got to do.

Secondly, we've got to be better as a team, in our rotations, in our protection of the lane. The big thing is that you've got to take away dribble penetration. So defense is the No. 1 priority when camp opens?

Gentry: Sure it is. That's how we won the championship last year, make no mistake about it. Our offense was good, because our defense was great. The team brought back both Asik and Alexis Ajinca. Does that mean that Davis will continue playing the four, primarily?

Gentry: He'll be a four and a five in certain situations. The one thing I don't want to do is have him banging, night in and night out, against the Dwight Howards of the world. Physically, I don't think he's ready for that. And I don't want him to be that.

Obviously, there's going to be times when he'll have to do that. But for the most part, we want him to be a four man. Do you want to do anything different with him offensively?

Gentry: I think we'll try to expand his game. He's a good enough shooter where he can step out and make corner 3s right now. The big thing is that we've got to have more possessions per 48 minutes. The way you do that is you've got to play with faster pace.

Alvin Gentry on Anthony Davis

Gentry discusses what his plans are for Anthony Davis next season. Will AD step out to the three-point line? For as great a player as he is, he didn't touch the ball on a high percentage of the team's possessions. Is that something that you can change?

Gentry: The thing that I saw was that he was very efficient in transition, as far as percentage. But he was extremely low as far as opportunities. So obviously, we have to get more opportunities for him. In the half-court, having Jrue Holiday healthy should help him see the ball more.

Gentry: Having Holiday healthy, having Tyreke [Evans] healthy, Eric Gordon when healthy the whole season. Our goal is to get those guys healthy and see that unit play as a group. You can get really potent offensively when Ryan Anderson is out there with Davis.

Gentry: What people don't understand about Ryan Anderson is that he's more than just a spot-up shooter. He's more than a guy who stretches the floor. He's got post-up skills. We can throw the ball to him down there. He can create a few things for us. We're going to try to incorporate all of those things into what we do as a system. One issue defensively was that Davis wasn't at the rim to defend a high percentage of the opponents' shots there, even when he was playing center, because he came out high to defend pick-and-rolls. Does that need fixing?

Gentry: I think for the most part, though, we have to cut down on the number of attempts. And once again, that leads back to dribble penetration.

We have some work to do, but I think we have a great group of guys that's going to work hard. The thing I do like about this team and the stamp that Monty left on this team, I think they're really competitive for 48 minutes. They play extremely hard. That's a good starting point. And now we have to do some other things to try to make it work.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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