Jeff Van Gundy took interest in the Pelicans' head-coaching job for more reasons than Anthony Davis, and he expects Alvin Gentry to thrive for those same reasons.
“Alvin Gentry is a really, really good hire because what you need to succeed in the NBA today goes beyond having a really good coach,” Van Gundy said Monday in an ESPN/ABC teleconference previewing the NBA Finals, which he will broadcast.
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"It has to be a really good coach that ownership and management believe in and support. And not support only when you’re winning, but when you go through some difficult times. So I think the belief by ownership and management, it’s sincere and it’s squarely behind the vision that Alvin has for his team going forward.”
To see Gentry’s vision, look no further than his star All-NBA first-team power forward. Davis averaged 24.0 points a game this regular season and topped that off with averaging 31.5 in a tough postseason series against the Western Conference No. 1 seed and eventual champion Warriors.
Davis is only three years into the league, but already strongly predicted to be a Hall of Famer. Gentry is an offensive-minded coach who thinks he can use Davis better. That's an intimidating concept for opponents, similar to when Van Gundy took over the Knicks in 1996.
“I got Patrick Ewing in his prime," he said. "I made 100 mistakes that he covered up because his greatness so superseded most guys we played that it covered up my mistakes.
“You don’t hire a guy to bring out the best in a HOF player. Anthony Davis could be coached by someone off the street, and that dude’s going to average 25 and 11. I think when you hire, you’re trying to help build the best fit around him to get the right players.
“Because, this guy could be Tim Duncan. I don’t mean Tim Duncan greatness, I mean Tim Duncan: Stay and play for a long time with one coach. Alvin and he could ride this for a decade if they get the right pieces around them.”
Mark Jackson, who will join Van Gundy in broadcast the Finals a year after being fired by the Warriors, relates to the other side of Pelicans’ coaching search: the firing of Monty Williams. Jackson feels a lack of credit was given under the circumstances Williams found himself in, such as valuable players missing chunks of the season due to injury.
Williams took the Pelicans to the playoffs despite those injuries.
“(You) can’t take away what Monty Williams has been able to do to that New Orleans team,” Jackson said. “Sometimes, you try to make changes too fast, and it can hurt you in the long run. You don’t appreciate what a masterful job he did during the course of a year.”
Van Gundy concurred, noting that the way Williams set up the team was the reason it was an appealing job for him.