New Orleans — The New Orleans Pelicans have decided that 60-year-old NBA coaching veteran Alvin Gentry is the best candidate to mold a young roster featuring 22-year-old budding superstar Anthony Davis.
Gentry, who is currently a top Golden State Warriors assistant, has been hired as New Orleans' new head coach, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The person spoke to the Associated Press on Saturday on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.
Gentry, a Pistons assistant and head coach in the 1990s, is expected to remain with Golden State until the Warriors complete the NBA Finals against Cleveland.
Gentry has served as a head coach four times, compiling a career record of 335-370. His most successful tenure came in Phoenix, where he went 158-144 in five seasons. He took the Suns to the 2010 Western Conference finals, where they lost to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Now he gets to coach a team which is coming off its first playoff berth in four seasons and is led by the dynamic, 6-foot-10 Davis, who is already a two-time All-Star, as well as an Olympic gold medalist and FIBA World Cup champion.
Gentry succeeds Monty Williams, who was fired despite making the playoffs this season as the Western Conference's eighth and final seed. The Pelicans were swept by the Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs, but three of the four games were close down the stretch, and one went to overtime.
The hiring is the first by Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, who joined the franchise shortly after Williams had been hired during the 2010 offseason, when the club was under different ownership.
During the past five years that Williams coached, he and Demps seemed to operate as equals in the chain of command. But on the day Williams was fired, Pelicans executive vice president Mickey Loomis said he prefers a clear hierarchy in which the coach reports to the general manager, and the general manager reports to ownership.
Loomis, who is also general manager of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, limits his role with the Pelicans to that of a senior adviser to Tom Benson, who owns both teams, and he made it clear that Demps would be in charge of selecting the new coach.
Now Demps will be accountable for the Pelicans' performance under Gentry, and his fortunes in the Big Easy could hinge on how much confidence he inspires in Davis, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract. Davis could sign a five-year extension as early as this July, but he also could choose to wait until next summer, when his options would include playing for a one-year qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. The latter scenario would allow him to test unrestricted free agency as early as the summer of 2017.
Gentry also had been a head coach with the Los Angeles Clippers (2000-03), Detroit (1997-2000) and Miami (1994-95). He served as Doc Rivers' top assistant with the Clippers last season.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr hired Gentry as his associate head coach and offensive coordinator when he came to the Warriors last May. Kerr was the general manager in Phoenix.
Kerr's top choices for his lead assistant last summer were Gentry and David Blatt, who ended up as head coach in Cleveland.
The spot Gentry leaves behind will be one of the most coveted assistant jobs in the league. Current assistant Luke Walton could be promoted, or Kerr could seek help from the outside from a more experienced coach.
Gentry was not at the Warriors' practices Friday and Saturday, likely because he was meeting with Pelicans officials.
Asked about Gentry on Saturday, Kerr said his affable personality had been missed.
"It seems so quiet," Kerr said.
Thompson probable for Game 1
Kerr says he expects Warriors All-Star guard Klay Thompson to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kerr said after Saturday's practice he is not even preparing for the Warriors to play without Thompson. He says Thompson is feeling well and progressing through the NBA's concussion protocol.
Thompson suffered a concussion after getting kneed in the head by Houston's Trevor Ariza in Golden State's Western Conference finals clinching win Wednesday night. Thompson must be symptom-free before he can return to practice.
The Warriors are off Sunday before resuming practices Monday. They host the Cavaliers in Game 1 on Thursday night.