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Pelicans fine-tune their game to a new soundtrack

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry adopts one tactic he learned during his Golden State days: piping music into team practices

POSTED: Oct 13, 2015 12:08 PM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner


Coach Alvin Gentry (right) has been pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of musical choices at practice.

— Eventually, the story of the New Orleans Pelicans' 2015-16 season will be written by fellows named Davis, Anderson, Asik, Gordon and Holiday.

So far in the preseason, though, some of the best stuff on the Pelicans' practice court has been put out by the likes of Drake, Kanye, Big Sean, 2 Chainz and Al Green.

"The coaches ask for artists you want to listen to and the players might say Future or Drake," guard Sean Kilpatrick said Monday night after the Pelicans' preseason victory in Chicago. "Then we put it on -- what is that, Pandora? -- and just let it play."

Borrowing a tactic from Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who borrowed it last season from Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry pipes music into the gym for his team's practices.

"It's just a thing, players like it," said Gentry, 60. "They're young guys, they listen to music all the time. It's a new generation of players and music is really important to them. I have two teenage boys and they listen to music all the time. So it's kind of nice as a mature guy -- I won't say 'older guy' -- to kind of know their music and listen to it some.

Being able to listen to your music while you're warming up and stretching kind of gets the whole team loose and into practice.

– New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis

"But we make them listen to our music also."

That comes on "Throwback Thursdays," when Gentry and his assistant coaches program a playlist heavy on Green, The Four Tops, The Temptations and other Motown legends.

"Y'know, real music," the coach said, laughing. "We also give Alexis [Ajinca] and Omer [Asik] 'Foreign Friday' where they can play their music. ... There's rappers all over the place. There's French rappers and Turkish rappers."

Said wing Tyreke Evans about the Friday offerings so far: "Alexis knows some of the music that we play. But I don't know about Omer."

Evans said he's fine when Gentry dusts off his golden oldies. "Definitely. My mom was old school, my brother," he said. "I'm used to hearing it on Sundays, as the case may be, or in the car with my brother."

The rest of the time? "Everybody picks and chooses a little bit, but we're all on pretty much the same page with the music," Evans said. "My favorite rapper is Jay-Z."

While the Association long ago earned its reputation as a copycat league, the NBA apparently isn't in danger of becoming "Dancing With The Stars" anytime soon. Music blaring on the practice court still is the exception, with some coaches afraid their players might tune out if they tuned up.

Chicago, for example, doesn't have it, although veteran forward Pau Gasol wasn't unfamiliar with the trend. "We play music with our [Spanish] national team during warmups sometimes, and on the court doing specific physical drills," Gasol said. "But once practice starts, the music is over."

Depending on the level of success New Orleans has this season, rival teams might begin to see music as a competitive edge. And here's another way to look at it: If Kevin Durant makes it known when he hits free agency that he wants to get loose and shoot to a soundtrack, you'll see every team with sufficient salary-cap room in its payroll opening up room for amplifiers and speakers in its operating budget, too.

So it's kind of nice as a mature guy -- I won't say 'older guy' -- to kind of know their music and listen to it some. But we make them listen to our music also.

– New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry

"It just gets us going," said Pelicans franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis. "Being able to listen to your music while you're warming up and stretching kind of gets the whole team loose and into practice."

Said Gentry: "Last year for us, it seemed to add energy to the practice. When you're going through those monotonous days where you're doing the same thing over and over again, it gives you an opportunity to come in and ... music lightens everything up."

And as with any sort of practice, it's all about reps. "We have Kanye every day," Gentry said. "So we even know the words now as a coaching staff."

Kilpatrick happened to be with Golden State in the preseason a year ago, so he was more familiar with Gentry's embrace of music than most. "Coach Kerr did it almost every practice and I think it helped him make sure that they went through practice, not coasting but I'd say 'comfortable,' " Kilpatrick said. "Now with [Gentry] bringing it to our team and making sure we're comfortable, that's a big key."

"Mostly we have fun with it. Everyone has a different day. ... Then when instructions come into play, that's when we cut the music off and just go."

Asked whose playlist he likes best, Kilpatrick showed the shrewd split-second decision-making skills of a point guard who has only a partially guaranteed contract for this season. "Coach Gentry," he said. "He had a great playlist. Old-school stuff."

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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