One of the enduring memories for Golden State Warriors fans last season came when assistant coach Alvin Gentry lightened up the mood in practice before an eventual title-clinching NBA Finals win in Game 6 by throwing down a dunk.
Gentry has moved on from the newest NBA champions to take over a talent-laden New Orleans Pelicans team that Golden State insists is a threat to its throne.
The Warriors will receive their championship rings before Tuesday night’s opener against a Pelicans team that has dropped 14 of the last 15 meetings between the teams, including seven straight at the Oracle Arena.
Led by league MVP Stephen Curry, Golden State ended a 30-year championship drought by knocking off LeBron James and Cleveland in the Finals after posting the league’s best record at 67-15.
Curry was sixth in the league in scoring with 23.8 points per game, third in 3-point shooting at 44.3 percent and first in foul shooting at 91.4 percent. He teamed up with Klay Thompson (43.9 percent on 3-pointers) to form the "Splash Brothers," one of the most lethal shooting backcourts in NBA history.
The Warriors rallied from a 2-1 Finals deficit, with Gentry "dunking" in a light-hearted practice before the clincher. Gentry, who will turn 61 next week, actually used the wall behind the basket as leverage to dunk as Golden State’s players roared in laughter.
Now Gentry, who last was a head coach with Phoenix from 2009-13, has replaced Monty Williams with the Pelicans. He will receive his Warriors ring in Tuesday’s pregame ceremony.
"It’s gonna be a little bit different in that these are people that we did something special with and together, so you have a closeness there, but after this thing is over, we have to find a way to compete and beat these guys, which is not going to be easy," Gentry said.
He’ll be up against Luke Walton, who will serve as Golden State’s interim coach with Steve Kerr needing to rest his surgically repaired back. Kerr will be present for the ring ceremony.
"It’s going to be awesome," Walton said. "I think it’s great that he’s (Gentry) going to be out there with us when we get our rings. He obviously is a big part of what we did last year. It’s always fun battling friends and people that you know."
Gentry will get his first chance to coach Anthony Davis, who was fourth in the league with 24.4 points per game last season, first with 2.9 blocks per game and among the top eight in field-goal percentage, rebounds per game and double-doubles.
Davis got his first taste of the playoffs last season when he averaged 31.5 points on 54.0 percent shooting along with 11.0 rebounds per game in Golden State’s four-game sweep in the first round.
"It’s starting to be a little bit of a rivalry with them ever since the playoffs," said Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, who was second in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 44.8 percent last season.
Curry averaged 33.8 points in the series against New Orleans and Thompson averaged 25.0.
New Orleans is looking to improve upon its 45-37 mark after adding center Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. The Pelicans, who are 0-7 at Golden State since Davis entered the league in 2012-13, hope Gentry will help them close the gap with the league’s best team.
Warriors forward Draymond Green is looking forward to seeing Gentry get his ring.
”That moment isn’t about talking smack," Green said. "We accomplished something special, and we’re going to try to enjoy that moment, then he’s got to get the boot.”