METAIRIE, La. — The Pelicans’ newly hired top basketball executive said that coach Alvin Gentry will be retained and that he won’t rule out the possibility of talking six-time All-Star Anthony Davis into rescinding his trade request and committing to New Orleans long term.
“We have a very long and successful history together with Klutch Sports,” Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Wednesday, referring to the agency, led by Rich Paul, that represents Davis. “Rich Paul and I have spoken about Anthony, and I think we’re both excited about what we can potentially build here.”
Griffin, 46, was Cleveland’s general manager when LeBron James — who also is represented by Paul — was with the Cavaliers and led them to the franchise’s only NBA title. Davis, who is under contract with the Pelicans for one more season, requested a trade in late January. In the aftermath, the Pelicans fired general manager Dell Demps, who has been effectively replaced by Griffin, albeit under a different title.
The Pelicans hired Griffin on Friday and formally introduced him on Wednesday.
Griffin said he has not yet met with Davis, but disputed the notion that Davis’ situation in New Orleans became too toxic to salvage.
“Quite the opposite, actually,” Griffin said. “Rich is genuinely excited about this situation. Rich represents the greatest player of his generation, and he saw LeBron buy into what we were doing and our direction [in Cleveland] and the respect he had for what we did.”
Pelicans owner Gayle Benson said she liked Griffin’s outlook on Davis.
“We certainly don’t want somebody here whose heart isn’t in it, but hopefully Anthony will have a change of heart, and if he does, we’ll welcome him back with open arms,” Benson said. “We’d like for him to stay if everybody agrees to it.”
Even if Davis doesn’t stay, it is arguably in the Pelicans’ interest to attempt to keep him, if only to create more urgency on the part of prospective trade partners.
Meanwhile, Griffin also called the retention of Gentry a “no-brainer.” The two worked together in Phoenix, when Gentry coached the Suns to the Western Conference finals. Griffin went as far as to call Gentry’s presence as head coach “one of the big, big factors in this decision for me.”
“My leadership style is to build a family — a family that loves each other enough to tell each other what they need to hear. Alvin and I can do that for each other,” Griffin said. “Having a partner in this process gives us an enormous leg up.”
Griffin added that when he worked with Gentry in Phoenix, “Alvin was really honest about the fact that he’s at his best when he’s fearless Alvin — when he’s not looking over his shoulder, when he’s not feeling like he has to do everything by himself. And I think we can put him a space to be the best of his angels.”
Benson noted that all the candidates interviewed for the job eventually given to Griffin said they would be inclined to retain Gentry, whom she credited for doing an “incredible job under very challenging times” this season.
“He just needs to get the right players together,” Benson said later. “We’ve had some bad breaks.”
Griffin was among a half-dozen candidates who interviewed to become New Orleans’ top basketball operations executive in recent weeks, including interim general manager Danny Ferry.
Griffin said that Benson convinced him of her commitment to winning by agreeing to what he described as “outrageous demands” related to his desire to bolster staffing and resources in the front office.