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Transcript: Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry on the New Orleans Pelicans podcast presented by SeatGeek – April 1, 2020

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Alvin Gentry on The Pelicans Podcast
April 1, 2020

Todd Graffagnini:
Hello fans. Welcome. It is another edition of the Pelicans Podcast presented by SeatGeek. It is the Wednesday edition. I am Todd Graffagnini, your radio voice of the New Orleans Pelicans. Hope everybody out there is staying safe and practicing their social distancing as we all try to get through this very difficult time together. But, we do want to talk a little hoops. I know a lot of people out there are missing Pelicans basketball as we all are. And, it is our special privilege to have on the head coach of your New Orleans Pelicans. Joining us on the podcast, it is Alvin Gentry. Coach, it’s been a while since we’ve spoken. It’s great for you to be on the show.

Alvin Gentry:
“Oh, thank you. Thank you. It’s great to try to touch any of the fans. I know this has been a real, real difficult time, as you just alluded too. We’ll find a way to get through this. Especially here in New Orleans. Everyone knows how this community operates. They stick together and we become a team, and we’ll get through anything, really.”

On how he’s doing:
Alvin Gentry: I’m doing fine. I feel great. You know the fact that you’re isolated and quarantined and all of that stuff gets to be very, very old. But, it’s what we have to do in order to get through this. I hope everybody out there is practicing their social distancing. But more so than anything, just kind of staying at home. We’ll weather this, as I said.”

On how it’s been only three weeks since the Pelicans and Kings game was suspended and the NBA season was postponed:
Alvin Gentry: To be honest with you, Graff, this feels like three months. You know, it was just so much turmoil right then, that night of what was going on. Then to get on the plane and fly home that night and pretty much basketball has been over since then. So, it seemed like such a long, long time, as I said. But, I think all of the decisions that were made were the right decisions. And, obviously, this is not something that we’re facing in the NBA or even in our country, but this is a world issue right now.

On what was being discussed in the Pelicans locker room before the Pelicans and Kings game was officially suspended, three weeks ago:
Alvin Gentry: Well, I think we were in contact with the league the entire time. The question was going to be, were we going to continue and just play the game, or was it going – or are we not going to play. And then, everyone would just get back home, and then the decision would be made to obviously suspend the season. We were just waiting on information that we would get. Didn’t see any reason for us to take the court until it was a solid answer as if to if we were playing or not playing. That’s basically what it was. When the decision was made that we weren’t going to play, then obviously all the wheels were put in gear as to getting us back home and getting us back home right away.

On walking out of the tunnel without his team moments before the game was suspended:
Alvin Gentry: Yeah. Well, you know, that’s when we started to get the information that we were not going to play that night. You know, I’ve never experienced anything like it in 31 years in the NBA. I don’t think I’ve ever been in that situation to the point of a game – you’re at the arena and ready to play, and the game is being suspended. So, it was new. It was something new to everyone, I think. But, thank goodness we’re back, and we’re safe. And as I said, I think everyone is really practicing the social distancing and everything they really should in this situation, because that’s going to be the only way we really get through this.

On how the Pelicans were playing and the position the team was in up until the NBA suspended the season:
Alvin Gentry: Well, and I think that’s what’s really disappointing about it is that we were going to control our own destiny. I talk to the guys all the time about, let’s put ourselves in a situation where we control our destiny. We don’t have to look at the scoreboard and we don’t have to wonder who beat who, but for us to be able to play ourselves into the playoffs. As you said, the thing that was the most encouraging is that we had two head to head games with Memphis, three with San Antonio, two with Sacramento…all the teams that we were chasing. We had won the series with Portland. So, we thought that we had gone through a stretch where we had the toughest schedule in the league. And then, we had a schedule that we thought was very favorable for us down the stretch, and we weren’t able to play that. So, that’s part of it and some kind of way we’ll get back up and running, and I’m sure our guys will be as just as excited about it, as far as getting back on the court and competing.

On “Pelicans Playback” highlighting the win against Memphis on January 31 in which the Pels scored 139 points:
Alvin Gentry: More impressive than the 139 was that I think we had 41 assists in that game if I’m not mistaken. And, to me, that speaks volumes about what we’re trying to teach as coaches and what our players have accepted from the standpoint of, we’re a ball movement team, we’re a player movement team, and when we do that we become a pretty good basketball team, especially sharing the ball. I thought that was an impressive win for us against a team that was playing very good. Coach (Taylor) Jenkins has done an unbelievable job with that crew. They were in the eighth spot, and everybody was chasing them to get to the playoffs.

On staying together as a team through the ups and downs of this season leading into the NBA hiatus:
Alvin Gentry: Well we’ve got great leaders, and I think that’s the reason. It’s really difficult for anyone – especially coach, speaking frankly – to survive a 13-game losing streak. As you said, no one ever wavered from what we were trying to do. The leadership we have with Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick and Derrick Favors, who is a silent leader, and some of our younger guys that have stepped up…they just said, ‘We’re just going to keep battling and we’ll get this turned around.’ We did get it turned around, and I thought we were playing really, really good basketball up until the time we ended up in Sacramento and what happened from there. It gives us something to shoot for whenever the hiatus is over and we start back to play. I think our guys will continue to individually keep themselves in great shape, continue to work out, and be ready to go when this whole thing is over.

On which Pelican made the biggest jump this season:
Alvin Gentry: Well I think you can look at Brandon Ingram. Obviously he played at an All-Star level and was very deserving of the All-Star (selection). I think the guy that really kind of got us going and has been great has been Lonzo Ball. I just think what he’s done from the point guard position, as far as the pace of the game. I think his shooting has vastly improved and he’s put himself in a situation that when guys try to go under him, he’s made them pay. Jrue (Holiday) has just been so solid. Derrick Favors has been the guy that has kind of anchored our defense, the improvement that we’ve had there. So there’s a lot of things and factors that have factored into it, but I just think in general the overall team has been playing much, much better. We’ve gotten good play from our bench, also.

On everyone on the roster embracing their roles and contributing:
Alvin Gentry: Yeah, you’re exactly right. I didn’t even mention Zion (Williamson) in the last statement that I had. He’s played at such a high level, and for him it’s been real comfortable because I think our veteran guys have realized what we have in Zion and have really accepted him with open arms and given him an opportunity to be exactly who he is. You talk about E’Twaun (Moore)…he’s had games that have really helped us. Nico Melli has some in and really been a solid player for us through the last 10 or 15 games. We can keep naming guys off the bench that have come in and helped us. Jaxson Hayes played those meaningful minutes for us until we got Favors back. There’s a lot of things that I think factor in, but the bottom line is that there have been so many times that we walked in the locker room afterwards and said, ‘Guys, this is a great TEAM win.’ It’s been a team win where everybody at some stage in that game did something to help us get over the hump.

On the Pelicans’ youth and the excitement surrounding their development together:
Alvin Gentry: Well, I think you’re right. You look at Zion who is a 19-year old and Jaxson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. One is 19, one is 20. We’ve got a 22-year old – Lonzo just turned 22. Josh Hart is 24, so you can go on and on and on. We’ve got good young players, and they’ve been able to get some meaningful minutes on the court. I think all that’s going to do is help us in the future. Our depth has played an unbelievable hand. We’ve missed JJ Redick for some games; there’s been guys that have stepped in and played great. We’ve missed Jrue for a couple of games and had some great wins with him out. All that does is tell me that we’re headed in the right direction and that David Griffin and Trajan (Langdon) and all of those guys in basketball ops have done a great job of putting us in a position to have some quality guys.

On his regular communication with the players and how they are staying in shape:
Alvin Gentry: I text most of our guys. Obviously what they’re trying to do is get themselves in a situation where they can continue to work out and do some things to try to stay in shape. The toughest thing that happens there is that there’s so many places that are closed down – gyms and health clubs and everything have closed down – so a lot of our guys have just ordered some equipment on their own and are doing some things on their own right now. Hopefully we’re going to be able to get back together and start to work again. We have a great commissioner and he has a great staff there, so some kind of way this is going to get all worked out. We’ll be able to play basketball again and finish out this season. It’s been difficult for the guys because they’re so regimented this time of the year. For them to now kind of be on their own – and we can’t do anything with them from an organizational standpoint, but we do try to communicate with them a lot. I know that our trainers and our strength and conditioning guys are in touch with them a lot, just to try to monitor what’s going on with them.

On ESPN moving up the premiere date of their “The Last Dance” documentary and how excited he is for that:
Alvin Gentry: I’ll tell you…it will be one of the most watched television shows in history I think. Anybody that has been around at all and knows the run that they had and know Michael (Jordan), it’s going to be something that I think is going to be great to sit down and watch.

On young people who may not know about everything Michael Jordan did getting an understanding of what he meant to the NBA:
Alvin Gentry: It’s funny you say that. My son, who is 19 years old, said to me, ‘Dad, I don’t even remember Michael playing. He had retired by the time I could walk.’ It’s going to be interesting, but I think they will get a real good in-depth feel of who Michael was as a basketball player and a competitor. I think it’s going to be great for the younger generation to see.

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