New Orleans Pelicans need change, even if it’s not the head coach, general manager

3 years ago The Times-Picayune 0

A month has passed since the end of the New Orleans Pelicans’ grim 2016-2017 campaign, and no announcement has been made about the futures of general manager Dell Demps and head coach Alvin Gentry.

No vote of confidence.

No stand-by-your-men declaration of faith.

No commitment of any kind.

The silence speaks volumes.

No news is good news as far as Demps and Gentry are concerned. Both have met with vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis to conduct their postseason postmortems. With each under contract for one more year each, it’s safe to assume there will be no major changes to the Pelicans hierarchy. If a change was going to be made it would have occurred by now.

New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) will become a free agent this offseason and resigning him is a top priority for the Pelicans front office.

“It’s clear to me, in that I have a contract and right now, I’m proceeding as if I’m going to be there,” Gentry said Thursday when asked on The Vertical podcast if he had been given assurance by the front office that his job is safe. as much Thursday. “I’m working and I’m here in Chicago looking at players (at the NBA combine). I’m going to the lottery next week. I’m just moving ahead like I normally would unless I hear otherwise.”

No one should be shocked by the Pelicans’ M.O. For better or worse, this is how the organization operates. Loomis and owners Tom and Gayle Benson have always preferred to maintain a low profile on personnel matters. They’ve never been big on public votes of confidence.

Two years ago Benson sent a congratulatory letter to head coach Monty Williams and the entire basketball operations staff for “a job well done” after the Pelicans went 45-37 and made the Western Conference playoffs. Two weeks later, Demps canned Williams.

Don’t expect a reprisal of that confusing chain of events.

Besides, Pelicans management has little to gain from publicly backing Demps and Gentry at this point. It’s abundantly clear next season is a make-or-break proposition for both men. With no extension offer on the table, they know the score: win – or else. Their margin for error is zero.

Loomis and the Bensons are loyal people by nature. They value the organizational stability that has been a hallmark of the club for the past decade. Public and/or media pressure does not and will not sway them.

That said, they don’t operate in a vacuum. If enough fans stop buying season tickets and attending games, Benson, Loomis and president Dennis Lauscha will take notice.

But they won’t make changes for change’s sake.

By retaining Demps and Gentry, management is taking a calculated risk. Pelicans fans have long since grown exasperated by the losing, frustrated by the excuses and disillusioned by the seemingly endless spree of injuries.

They’re tired of waiting ’til next year.

During Demps’ seven-year tenure, the Pelicans/Hornets are 236-322. Their .424 winning percentage in that span ranks 11th among 15 Western Conference teams and 19th in the NBA.

That kind of track record makes it difficult to sell the status quo.

If Demps and Gentry are given a reprieve, then team officials must do something to excite fans and regain their confidence. And that starts with upgrading the roster and coaching staff. Changes to both are imperative this offseason.

If Jrue Holiday is not re-signed in free agency then a capable replacement must be found and an elite wing shooter added. Somehow the Omer Asik/Alexis Ajinca dead wood must be pruned. To borrow a phrase from Sean Payton, these are “musts” not “wants.”

A makeover of Gentry’s staff also seems in order. Gentry came here to run his version of the Warriors’ pace-and-space offense and now finds himself coaching twin towers. It makes sense to bolster the staff with coaches experienced in tutoring big men.

It’s reasonable to assume the Pels will be improved next season. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will have a full training camp together and the coaching staff will have a full offseason to tailor the system to their strengths.

The question the Pelicans brain trust must ask is: What defines a successful 2017-2018 season?

Will a winning season do it?

Will simply making the playoffs earn Demps and Gentry an extension?

What if the Pelicans earn a postseason bid and then are swept in four games? Will that satisfy the powers that be?

With Davis, going .500 and making the playoffs shouldn’t be the goal. You win rings with a talent like him.

Unfortunately, the Pelicans are hamstrung by salary cap limitations, thanks largely to misguided deals for Asik and Solomon Hill. If Holiday is re-signed, the Pels will have few resources left to attract a veteran wing shooter. And barring a Powerball-odds lottery miracle, they’ve traded away their draft capital.

No, Demps is going to have to be creative to get this done. He got the Pelicans into this mess. It’s up to him to get them out of it. And the clock is ticking.