It’s important to understand the events which led up the Monty Williams firing.
The Pelicans had come off 45 win season and a first round exit in the western conference playoffs. Monty Williams had improved the Pelicans record each season, and had risen to the challenge of making the playoffs, beating the 2-seeded Spurs in the final game of the season.
Monty had also been instrumental in the growth and development of Anthony Davis. Instead of burning him out and allowing him to develop bad habits like most coaches would with a teenage superstar, Monty restricted Davis and built him into a monster slowly and responsibly.
Apr 25, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) and head coach Monty Williams walk off the court after they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors following game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
You know all this.
The point is that the Pelicans were not a terrible team, and Monty was not a terrible coach. It’s important to understand that the firing was not a move against Monty, but rather a move in favor of Dell Demps.
Demps and Monty had a respectful relationship, but their philosophies were fundamentally different.
Monty believed in running a slow half court offense, he believed in dribble handoffs, he believed in wasting clock time, and he believed athleticism could only get the Pelicans so far.
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This philosophy was beneficial in player development. Monty taught Davis to develop a jump shot, and a face-up game instead of just telling him to try to play like vintage Blake Griffin.
This philosophy was less helpful for the team though, the truth is that this Pelicans roster is exceptionally young, and should absolutely be using that to their advantage.
Demps understood this.
He wanted this team to run, he wanted them to blitz pick and rolls in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, instead of dribbling around the perimeter and wasting the entire 24.
This philosophical rift is what drove Monty and Dell apart, and eventually forced the Pelicans organization to make a difficult choice between them.
Dell earned his place this season, but prior to it his reputation was falling hard.
He absolutely saved the Pelicans this season, but in his past few years he has been criticized for trading away his 1st round picks irrationally, and neglecting the team’s future assets.
Apr 25, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans players Dante Cunningham (44) and Norris Cole (30) and Quincy Pondexter (20) and Jrue Holiday (11) and Ryan Anderson (33) wait to enter the game at the start of the fourth quarter in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Monty Williams was hired before Dell, so it was more then likely the Pelicans organization could have fired Dell instead, and found a GM who supported Monty’s direction.
Instead they decided to side with Dell.
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This means that for the first time in his career, Dell was allowed to hire his own Head Coach.
It also meant that since he now had full support from the organization, his fast paced dreams for the Pelicans would become a reality. These factors ultimately led to the hiring of Head Coach Alvin Gentry.
Gentry fits Dell’s ideals perfectly.
His 2010 Suns team was 1st in PPG and 4th in offensive pace. Gentry has served as an Associate Head Coach for the Clippers and Warriors, and knows exactly how to make this roster play at 100mph. Gentry has a less than elite defensive reputation, and utilizes “small-ball” tactics far more often than Monty Williams would have.
Gentry was hired over candidates like Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy, who are both held in higher regard than Gentry around the league.
The fact that the Front Office allowed Demps to defy common opinion and select a candidate who fit his “vision” means two things:
"1. Demps has been given complete trust and control of the Pelicans basketball operations.2. If this roster fails to succeed, Demps will have no excuses left, and be promptly let go."
Gentry is a fantastic coaching candidate for this young and athletic Pelicans roster, but if him and Dell’s “vision” fails to come to fruition than Dell with face the consequences.
The Best Case Scenario for Dell Demps:
This season Pelicans team completely revolutionizes their offense, and torches the league. With the help of a strong defensive assistant coach, Alvin Gentry helps them to a top 1-5 seed in the west, ultimately advancing to at least the 2nd round in the playoffs. Davis will learn to respect Gentry, and flourish in his up tempo system, just like Amar’e Stoudemire did in 2010. Gentry will also figure out how to successfully implement Jrue, Tyreke and Gordon in a fluent transition based system, bringing out the best in all three guards.
The Worst Case Scenario for Dell Demps:
This season Pelicans team improves only marginally on offense, while falling apart defensively. The fast pace leads to an increase in injuries for the players, and forces Dell to make panic trades in order to fix the unhealthy roster. They miss the playoffs barely, and Davis begins to miss Monty Williams, who he he’d built a strong relationship with.
In this scenario forward Luke Babbit also gets dreadlocks, and Pierre the Pelican becomes addicted to sleeping pills.
Apr 23, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans mascot Pierre the Pelican reacts during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 123-119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
In all seriousness, it’s very unlikely the Pelicans are that unfortunate.
The truth is that Gentry is a kind well-respected veteran who can help this Pelicans offense the same way Steve Kerr and him have helped the Warriors.
Finding a strong defensive assistant coach would still be ideal, but regardless Gentry is a fantastic addition.
Functional front offices trust their General Managers, so this is a move in the right direction for the Pelicans franchise.
Dell has been given complete control, and only time can tell if he has built this team the right way.
Fingers crossed that Anthony Davis averages 34.6 points a game next season and Dell Demps sleeps like a baby……