(AP) Alvin Gentry's ability to coach the Pelicans into the second round of the playoffs despite the mid-season loss of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins persuaded the club that Gentry deserved to be under contract beyond next season.
Gentry agreed on Thursday to an extension covering two additional years, running through the 2020-21 season.
''He did a tremendous job last season,'' Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said. ''When we faced adversity, Alvin and his staff continually discovered ways to place the team in situations where we could be successful.''
Gentry has gone 117-138 in three seasons, including this season's playoffs, when the Pelicans swept Portland before losing a second-round series 4-1 to defending champion Golden State.
New Orleans missed the playoffs in Gentry's first two seasons, during which the team dealt with a rash of injuries to key players.
During this past season, Gentry had to help the Pelicans adapt to the loss of Cousins, who played a central role in a system that revolved around him and fellow All-Star big man Anthony Davis. Cousins tore his left Achilles in the 48th game of the season. Without him, New Orleans still managed to go 21-13 and finish sixth in the highly competitive Western Conference.
The Pelicans' late-season success stemmed in part from Gentry's integration of Nikola Mirotic into the starting rotation after a Feb. 1 trade that brought the fourth-year forward to New Orleans from Chicago.
The vote of confidence in Gentry comes as the Pelicans ponder their approach to retaining two key free agents: Cousins and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo.
Both players thrived last season under Gentry, and Rondo during the playoffs spoke highly of the way Gentry respects his players by giving them the latitude to play to their strengths and be who they are.
Cousins was averaging 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds before his injury. Rondo enjoyed his best production with New Orleans during the playoffs, when he averaged 10.3 points, 12.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds.
Gentry sounded confident that the Pelicans were prepared to move aggressively to build on what they accomplished this season, even if the price is high.
Ownership and management ''have provided us with the necessary resources to compete at the highest level,'' Gentry said Thursday, specifically mentioning Gayle Benson, who is now the sole owner of the Pelicans and NFL's Saints following the death of her husband, Tom, in March. ''I couldn't be happier to work for such an exceptional owner. I am excited for the great opportunities that are ahead for our organization.''
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