BOONE, N.C.—As head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, Alvin Gentry ’77 draws upon his experience — both athletic and academic — at Appalachian State University to manage and mold a Pelicans squad that includes such stars as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo.
But the former Appalachian star also has to nurture young players like Charles Cooke, a rookie this season after playing at James Madison University and the University of Dayton.
“Coach Gentry is a very good coach,” Cooke said. “He definitely understands the game and can articulate it well.”
From Mountaineer to Pelican
Gentry, a Shelby native, grew up playing basketball at Shelby High School in the early 1970s, at a time when Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball was at its apex.
The standout player dreamed of playing college hoops in the ACC, and he attracted a lot of attention from several major programs.
“I really wanted to go to Clemson. I wanted so much to play in the ACC,” he recalled.
But that was before his mother met Press Maravich — then head coach of Appalachian’s men’s basketball team. Maravich, who died in 1987, was head coach from 1972-75 and the father of basketball star Pete Maravich, nicknamed “Pistol Pete.”
“It was one of those deals that my mom felt very comfortable with coach Maravich,” Gentry said. “She said, ‘I trust this guy. This is where you are going to school.’”
The 6-foot-5-inch Gentry was a standout player at Appalachian from 1973-77, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in management. Soon after graduation, he landed his first assistant coaching job at the University of Colorado.
He was an assistant to coach Larry Brown at the University of Kansas (KU) in 1988, when the KU men’s basketball team — which featured star player Danny Manning, current head coach at Wake Forest University — won the national title.
Gentry was associate head coach for the Golden State Warriors during the 2014-15 season. That year, the Warriors won a franchise-best and league-best 67 games and captured the 2015 NBA crown with the assistance of star guard Steph Curry, a former Davidson College standout.
Gentry also led the Phoenix Suns to the 2010 NBA Western Conference finals.
After many years as a NBA assistant, Gentry was named head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans on May 30, 2015. He became the 45th coach in NBA history to win 400 games on Oct. 22, 2017, as the Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Lakers.
Campus and coach Maravich — a return to inspiring beginnings
Gentry tries to keep in touch with his alma mater. A few summers ago, he returned with his children to visit Appalachian’s main campus.
“It is such a beautiful campus; it is a peaceful campus,” he commented. “I saw the (new basketball) arena a few years back. I pull for them all of the time. I think they have a lot of things going for them.”
Although he has worked under coaches such as Brown, Paul Doug Collins and Tim Floyd, Gentry said the lessons he learned under Maravich remain with him.
“Coach Maravich, I think, was such a high-character human being. We struggled (to win) when he was there, but he was so locked in on trying to get us better with player development,” recalled Gentry, who also played for Bobby Cremins at Appalachian.
“I just loved (Maravich) from the moment I met him. I didn’t care about anything else that was happening there — because he was there.”
About Mountaineer Athletics
More than 450 student-athletes compete in 20 NCAA Division I varsity sports at Appalachian State University, 10 for men and 10 for women. Appalachian was a dominant force in the Southern Conference for more than 40 years before joining the Sun Belt Conference in July 2014 — one of 10 conferences that are members of the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Mountaineer football team claimed back-to-back 10-win seasons and bowl victories in 2015 and 2016, providing a catalyst for comprehensive excellence to grow across all Appalachian sports while competing at the highest levels of college athletics. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu/athletics.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.