NEW ORLEANS — A second straight non-playoff season will not cost general manager Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry their jobs – at least not before the start of next season.
How much patience owner Tom Benson, who turns 90 in July, and Executive Vice President Mickey Loomis will have with the pair once the season starts is another matter.
Benson and Loomis announced their decision to stick with Demps and Gentry, who are both under contract through next season, in a written statement on Monday. Loomis said the club decided to retain the GM and coach after “a careful and thorough review” and represents “the best course of action as we move forward.”
Loomis added, “We will continue to evaluate important roles on both the administrative and coaching staffs, which will be resolved at the appropriate time.”
Demps hired Gentry two seasons ago, and the Pelicans have since gone 64-100 since. However, the club has struggled to maintain a stable lineup, largely because of injuries and other misfortune, such as starting guard Jrue Holiday missing the start of this season while attending to his wife, Lauren, as she sought treatment for a brain tumor.
New Orleans also showed promise after Demps orchestrated a trade in February that paired 6-foot-11 DeMarcus Cousins with fellow 6-11 All-Star Anthony Davis in the Pelicans’ front court. New Orleans won eight of 11 games during one late-season stretch, including victories over playoff-bound Houston, Memphis and Portland.
Once New Orleans was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the club rested Cousins and Davis and lost all but one of its final five games, finishing 34-48.
The announcement comes on the eve of the Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery, at which Gentry is slated to represent the club.
New Orleans would have the 10th overall pick based on finish. That pick is slated to go to Sacramento as part of the Cousins trade – unless New Orleans wins one of the top three picks in the draft lottery.
While the club is continuing to back Demps and Gentry for now, pressure on both of them is mounting.
Demps has been with New Orleans for seven seasons since being hired after the 2010 draft. The Pelicans have made the playoffs just twice under Demps, both time with Monty Williams as coach in 2011 and 2015.
But after the Pelicans were swept by Golden State in the first round of the 2015 postseason, Demps fired Williams and hired Gentry. The hope was that Gentry, a former top assistant for the Warriors’ 2015 title squad, would have success installing an up-tempo offense similar to the one Golden State runs in New Orleans, with the quick, agile and good shooting Davis as the center piece.
An unusual rash of injuries seemed to derail those plans, and Gentry will have to adjust his scheme next season to accommodate the more plodding Cousins.
Gentry said he saw evidence that a Cousins-Davis pairing I the front court could work well, particularly if he has an entire training camp to refine his new scheme – as opposed to having to adjust on the fly more than halfway through the season, as was the case last February.