- Pelicans hire Stan Van Gundy to replace Alvin Gentry as head coach
- Pelicans stumbled to a 2-6 finish in the NBA restart despite entering Orlando with playoff aspirations
- The combination of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball makes the Pelicans one of the most interesting young teams in the NBA
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that the New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to a deal to make Stan Van Gundy the team’s new head coach. Woj calls the contract a multiyear pact, but specifics in terms of years and salary have not yet been made public.
Van Gundy becomes the seventh head coach in franchise history. He’ll be replacing Alvin Gentry, who was fired after the NBA restart in Orlando earlier this summer. Van Gundy has served as a game analyst for TNT over the past couple of years, and he has previously served as the head coach of the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Detroit Pistons.
Van Gundy’s Defensive Reputation
Van Gundy’s experience was attractive to the Pelicans’ front office because of the team’s youthful roster. Van Gundy has a total of 11 years’ worth of head coaching experience at the NBA level. New Orleans, who fell just shy of a playoff berth this past season, is armed with all sorts of high-upside young talent.
ESPN reporting with @_andrew_lopez: Stan Van Gundy has agreed to a deal to become the next coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 21, 2020
His reputation as a strong defensive coach was also appealing for the Pels’ brass, especially considering the team’s annual shortcomings in that department under Gentry. This past season, the Pelicans ranked just 18th in defensive efficiency, allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions. They ranked 24th in the same category two years ago. Teams coached by Van Gundy have finished in the top-10 in the league in defensive rating in 10 of his 11 years on the bench.
The 61-year-old has a career record of 523-384 as a head coach, and he notably led the Magic to an appearance in the 2009 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite entering the NBA restart with aspirations of snagging one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Pels went just 2-6 in the seeding games and finished in 13th place.
Intriguing Young Roster
That said, there is an awful lot to like about the roster Van Gundy will be inheriting. The most attractive aspect of the team is clearly Zion Williamson, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick that looks primed for superstardom. Williamson was limited to just 24 games last season due to injury, but he led all rookies by averaging 22.5 points on better than 58 percent shooting from the field.
New Orleans also has a budding All-Star in Brandon Ingram, who set career-highs in just about every statistical category last season in his first year with the team. Ingram made his first All-Star appearance and was voted as the league’s Most Improved Player last year after leading the team with an average of 23.8 points per game. The Pelicans also have a crop of youngsters that includes Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, and Josh Hart.
Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors, and JJ Redick also give the Pelicans a nice crop of experienced veterans. Redick, who just finished his first season in New Orleans, played under Van Gundy with the Magic.
The Pelicans are a team that has not enjoyed a ton of postseason success. New Orleans has qualified for the playoffs just twice in the last seven years. The team has won just won playoff series since 2007-08, as well.
Will the Davis Trade Pan Out For New Orleans?
New Orleans traded franchise centerpiece Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in July of 2019. That trade brought Ingram, Ball, and Hart to New Orleans, but Davis wound up helping the Lakers win the title in his first year with the team. Davis plans to become a free agent this offseason, but reports indicate he will immediately sign a lucrative new deal with the Lakers.
As of this writing, the Pelicans have +3000 odds to win the Western Conference next season. That puts them behind the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Mavericks, Rockets, Trail Blazers, and Jazz. New Orleans is also listed at +5000 to win the NBA title for the first time in 2020-21.