The New Orleans Pelicans are building toward a future around Zion Williamson and other young talent but needed a coach to take the reins.
They found that person Wednesday.
New Orleans hired Stan Van Gundy, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, for a position that was vacant after the team fired Alvin Gentry in August. Gentry was just 175-225 in five seasons with the Pelicans, including a 30-42 record in 2019-20.
Stan Van Gundy @realStanVG
I’m excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team. It will be an honor to work with our players and to work for Mrs. Benson and David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans. I can’t wait to talk to our players and get the process started
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Van Gundy signed for four years.
The Pelicans were good enough to earn an invite to the NBA's restart plan at Walt Disney World Resort but failed to make the playoffs.
The question now is whether Van Gundy can turn the promise in New Orleans into tangible success on the court. The opening was one of the more enticing available jobs this offseason because of all the talent, and it starts with Williamson.
Williamson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft out of Duke, is the face of the franchise in the post-Anthony Davis era and hinted at what is to come by averaging 22.5 points a night in 24 games during his rookie campaign. Injury problems are a concern, but he has the ceiling of a franchise cornerstone if he remains healthy.
He is far from the only building block, though, as Brandon Ingram is an elite scorer who can hit from the outside and attack the lane.
The Kevin Durant comparisons may be unfair given Durant's status as an all-time great and future Hall of Famer, but there is an element of smoothness to Ingram's game that suggests he will only get better with more experience.
Throw in Lonzo Ball's passing and Jrue Holiday's veteran leadership and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, and there is plenty to like in New Orleans.
It will be up to Van Gundy to figure out how to mold all that talent together, but having a healthy Williamson from the start of the season and a year of experience together for the core should help.
Van Gundy led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009 and reached the playoffs in seven of his first eight seasons as a coach for Orlando and the Miami Heat. However, he was just 152-176 in four seasons at the helm with the Detroit Pistons and made the playoffs once.
This is a fresh start for both sides, and the expectation should be making the playoffs at a minimum for the Pelicans in 2020-21 as they look to build a long-term contender under their new coach.