"When I was a little shortie, seventh grade, when you were one of my coaches at the Denver Nuggets Summer Basketball Camp, you and Larry Brown taught me something about basketball that I still carry with me to this day. You all had the philosophy that you really only get better at basketball by actually playing basketball. You and Coach Brown were like, 'Just keep playing. Run up and down the court, scrimmage, have some fun, just play. You will learn.'
Just the belief that you will get better through play. It's very similar to teachers in preschool and nursery school who teach and feel that the best way for kids to essentially learn at that age is by having fun, through play. It's engagement that makes you learn and appreciate and love the game. I've never forgotten that, I've never let that go. And for that I want to say thank you." -- Scoop Jackson, to Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry.
Scoop Jackson: I gotta ask you this because, well, you've been in this game a long time and you grew up watching and playing with one of the greatest ever -- your cousin David Thompson. But have you ever seen anyone like Stephen Curry? Ever?
Alvin Gentry: Uh, not ... look, Steve Nash [Gentry coached Nash when he was both assistant and head coach of the Phoenix Suns from 2003-13] was a great shooter, but he couldn't shoot it off the dribble like Steph. Stephen Curry shoots the ball off the dribble better than anyone that's ever walked on a basketball court. And to me, that's the toughest thing. A guy that can shoot it off the dribble like that, he finishes at the rim. I don't know if you saw (Game 3) when he shot the left-handed, high-off-the-glass ...
Scoop: Yeah, it wasn't a scoop shot (no pun intended), it's like a one-handed, underhanded tear drop.
Gentry: That's exactly what it is! And Dwight [Howard] jumped as high as he could, his [hand] was over the square, and Steph lobbed it over his hand, almost to the top of the backboard and right in the basket. I've seen him do that so many times that, you know, it's become routine. What you are is shocked when it gets blocked, not when it goes in. It's a shock when it misses. It's a shock when he misses a wide-open 3! It doesn't matter what the situation is, if his shot doesn't go in, it's a shock. That's how good he is.
Scoop: Is it impossible to get out of coaching mode watching Curry play at times?
Gentry: I don't know if you can get out of coaching mode, but it is fun watching him play. I love watching him play. I loved watching him play last year when I was sitting on that Clipper bench last year (as assistant coach), but it was a nightmare. All the things that he can do. And you never know when he's just going to go off.
Scoop: Did you know what you were getting into when you came over to Golden State? Did you have an idea that this team could become this?
Gentry: I had a good idea because we [the Clippers] played them seven times last season and I watched that team and I just thought potentially ... look, Mark (Jackson, former Warriors coach) did a good job, a really good job and I don't ever want to take anything away from him, but I just thought if you could just get that team on the move, if you could get them moving, moving the ball and making cuts, I just felt they had a chance to be special. I thought we had a chance to be pretty damn good. I really did. Now, if you said I thought we'd be 67-15 special, that would be a lie! That would be a lie.
Scoop: Do you look at yourself as a hired gun? I mean, teams look at you and say, "We need Gentry in here to get this situation together, take our team to that next level." You are the most in-demand assistant/associate head coach in the business.
Gentry: [Laughing] No, I don't really look at myself as that. I think that I've been around coaches like Mike D'Antoni, Larry Brown, and Doug Collins and people like that and I think I've been able to tap a little bit from each of those guys and I think I can help improve teams. More so than anything, I think I can improve them overall not just in one area. I think you get labeled sometimes as an offensive guy or a defensive guy or an innovator or something like that. I know the game because I've worked with great people.
Scoop: Do you still hold that same philosophy of learning the game through playing?
Gentry: I absolutely do. I [still] truly believe that. I think the way you get better at basketball is by playing 5-on-5. Obviously, the work on fundamentals is important, to work on your skills, but to become a great basketball player, all of the great basketball players that I know, they love playing and they play a lot and they play 5-on-5 basketball. You can drill and you can get better with your fundamentals, but if you are going to become a really good basketball player, you are going to have to love the game and just play.
That's what I tell all of the young players I coach: For every hour you spend working on your game, spend three hours playing the game. That's how you figure out angles, you figure out cuts, that's the way to figure all of those things out because that's the way the game is played. And that's the only way you get better, I think.
Scoop: In all of your years of coaching what has been the single most difficult thing you've learned to make players "buy into" or believe from coaches?
Gentry: Probably that coaches are actually only playing the guys that they feel helps them win the game. Some players have a tendency to take [it] personal, but it's never personal. Coaches want to win as bad as anyone, so he's playing the guys that he feels are going to give them the best opportunity to do that. And I think that's tough for players to swallow sometimes, because they feel [not playing] is a personal thing and it's hardly ever personal.
Scoop: If Curry and Klay Thompson are the Splash Bros., what does that make you and (co-associate head coach) Ron Adams?
Gentry: Old guys that have been around a long time. [Laughing] We're [comedic duo] Laurel and Hardy.
Scoop: Does this situation you are in with the Warriors make it easy for you to turn down head coaching offers that may come your way?
Gentry: Well, it makes it easy if it's not something I think is really good. I'm in a great situation, we have a great staff, so if I think it's something that's questionable at all, then I will not take it. I don't feel that I have to because I have a great, great job right now. But am I interested in being a head coach again? Yeah, in the right situation I'm definitely interested. But I won't be taking a job just to be taking a job.
Scoop: Now you know if you do you are going to have to deal with looking at Steph from another bench again?
Gentry: That's not good. That's not good at all.