Returning NBA Coach Profile: Alvin Gentry (New Orleans Pelicans)

Ryan Loftis By Ryan Loftis, 9th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Basketball

A profile of Alvin Gentry, the new head coach of the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans.

Early Years

One of six children, Alvin Gentry was born in Shelby, N.C, on Nov. 5, 1954. He has said he grew up in "a loving, very disciplined home." Gentry's father, G.H., was a deacon at Maple Springs Baptist Church in Shelby for 67 years. "I never met anyone who disliked my dad," Gentry told in 2009. "My dad was truly a saint."

Gentry is a first cousin of David Thompson, who starred at North Carolina State and later in the NBA. Thompson's Crest High faced Gentry's Shelby High when Gentry was a sophomore. Gentry was assigned to guard Thompson and later joked that his cousin scored "only" 39 points against him.

Gentry played point guard at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., and graduated with a degree in management in 1977. Thompson set up a tryout for Gentry with the Denver Nuggets that same year, but Gentry was cut. Coaching would be his ticket to the NBA.

College Ranks

Following a stint as a graduate assistant at the University of Colorado during the 1977-78 season and a year in private business, Gentry became a full-time assistant coach at Baylor University in 1980. He was an assistant coach at Colorado from 1981-85 and then joined Larry Brown's staff at the University of Kansas (Brown coached the Nuggets when Gentry tried out for them). His college coaching career ended on the highest possible note as Kansas won the national championship in 1988.

Miami Heat

After serving as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs (again under Brown) during the 1988-89 season and the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1990-91 season, Gentry joined the Miami Heat as an assistant coach in 1991. The team promoted him to interim head coach following Kevin Loughery's dismissal on Valentine's Day 1995. Gentry posted a 15-21 record and failed to lead the Heat to the playoffs. He was fired that May.

Detroit Pistons

Gentry joined the Detroit Pistons as an assistant coach prior to the 1995-96 season and was named interim head coach after Doug Collins was fired in February 1998. The Pistons hired Gentry as permanent head coach for the 1998-99 season, and Gentry rewarded their confidence by leading the team to a 29-21 record in the lockout-shortened season and a playoff berth. Detroit struggled the following season, however, and Gentry was fired in March 2000. The Pistons were 28-30 when he was dismissed. Gentry left Detroit with a 73-72 record.

Return to the Clippers

Gentry rejoined the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the 2000-01 season, this time as the head coach. He had an 89-133 record in Los Angeles when the Clippers fired him in March 2003. Gentry was an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets during the 2003-04 season.

Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns hired Gentry as an assistant coach in June 2004. Utilizing head coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced seven seconds or less offense, the Suns won at least 54 games in each of the next four seasons and made two consecutive Western Conference Finals appearances.

D'Antoni left the Suns in 2008, and his successor, Terry Porter, was fired in February 2009 after only four months on the job. The Suns won Gentry's first game as interim head coach by 40 points and became the first NBA team in almost two decades to score 140 points in three straight games. Gentry finished the season 18-13 and was named the Suns' permanent head coach that May.

Gentry was twice named Western Conference Coach of the Month twice in his first full season as head coach and won a career-best 54 games. The Suns advanced to the conference finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. It would be their only postseason appearance during Gentry's tenure as head coach.

Phoenix was 13-18 and last in their conference when Gentry was fired in January 2013. A news release announcing the dismissal described the decision as "mutually agreed to" by Gentry and the team.

New Title - and a Title

Gentry's third stint with the Clippers saw him serve as associate head coach during the 2013-14 season. The Clippers won 57 games that season, led the league in scoring and offensive rating, and advanced to the conference semifinals.

The Golden State Warriors announced Gentry's hiring as their associate head coach in July 2014. Golden State's new head coach, Steve Kerr, had won five NBA championships as a player and had broadcasting and executive experience (he was the Suns' general manager during Gentry's first two seasons at the helm) but had never coached before. Despite Kerr's inexperience, the Warriors won a league-best 67 games.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced Gentry's hiring as their new head coach on May 30, 2015. Gentry's predecessor, Monty Williams, was fired earlier that month despite leading the Pelicans to their first playoff appearance in four years. But before Gentry could take the reins in New Orleans he had to finish the season with the Warriors, and what a season it was. The Warriors posted a 15-3 playoff record on their way to the Finals and then defeated LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in six games to win their first championship in 40 years. Gentry claimed the Warriors' title validated his former boss Mike D'Antoni's style of play.


Alvin Gentry, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns

Meet the author

author avatar Ryan Loftis
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism degree and have been a freelance writer for various print and online publications since then.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
10th Oct 2015 (#)

Good for the Pelicans but love the Boston Celtics!

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author avatar Ryan Loftis
11th Oct 2015 (#)

With the possible exception of the Lakers, the Celtics have the richest tradition of any team in NBA history.

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