Much like when a team makes a young coach hire a proven veteran head coach as an assistant — a sign they want someone in place if things go sideways — so eyebrows around the NBA were raised a few years ago when the Pelicans hired former Hawks GM Danny Ferry to be a consultant to the New Orleans front office. It was like they were lining up a potential replacement.
Friday morning, the Pelicans fired Dell Demps as GM.
Now they have named Ferry as the interim GM the team announced.
Ferry will be in the mix long-term, but owner Gayle Benson wants a new structure in place in New Orleans. Demps reported to Micky Loomis, the NFL’s Saints executive, and in comments on the firing of Demps she said she wants to set up a more independent structure for the Pelicans.
“We will immediately begin the process of restructuring our basketball operations department,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in her statement. “This will include a comprehensive, but confidential, search aided by outside consultants to identify a new leader of our basketball operations, directly reporting to me…
“As difficult as these decisions are, my responsibility is to provide the leadership and resources necessary to deliver a winning team to our fans and community. I take that responsibility seriously and would like to assure our fans that I am prepared to provide any, and all, resources required to compete for championships. My expectations, and the expectations of our fans, are that this team will compete at a high level for the remainder of the season. While we still have many more critical decisions to make when this season comes to an end, I am focused on making sure we are properly positioned to succeed and that we are headed in the right direction.”
Ferry is in the big chair now and will be in the running for the main job. He reshaped the Hawks roster into a 60-win team without bottoming out and tanking, although the team could not sustain that level of play. He was let go in a messy situation where he relayed a racist scouting report comment about Luol Deng (he “had a little African in him”). Ferry may not have authored the remark but he didn’t edit it either and that understandably landed him in hot water. Add to that he was caught in the infighting of the Hawks’ ownership groups at the time (the team has since been sold) and Ferry was destined to lose his job.
Ferry is not the only big name being considered for the permanent gig, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Griffin is the biggest name on the board, and if Benson is looking for someone who wants the control and knows how to organize a basketball operations side top to bottom he would be a great choice. (Part of the reason he did not get the Knicks job was Griffin wanted that control and couldn’t get it.)
Mike Zarren has been one of the assistant GMs most mentioned as getting a promotion for some time. The interesting thing there is Zarren works for the Celtics and would suddenly be the guy in charge of where Anthony Davis gets traded. And the Celtics want Davis. That doesn’t make it a done deal — Zarren is smart and would ask for the world — but NBA front office work is a relationship business and if someone has a preexisting relationship with another GM deals are more likely to come together.