Pelicans ready to take flight with Griffin at the helm
It’s official. David Griffin took the stage at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center and assumed the title of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Pelicans.
In a move that has been widely lauded both locally and nationally, the Pelicans nabbed possibly the biggest fish in the pond of executive talent.
Before turning the press conference over to Griffin, owner Gayle Benson and team President Dennis Lauscha laid out expectations for both Griffin and the organization during their respective comments.
“David’s strong leadership skills, acumen and vision stood out as the best fit for our organization to achieve our goal of building a team that will compete for championships,” said Benson. “I look forward to working with David and providing all of the resources he needs to bring an NBA championship to our city.”
Lauscha was impressed by Griffin’s vision for the future as well as his 20-year track record of success; first with the Phoenix Suns and then with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“He has built championship-level teams and is considered one of the most established executives in the NBA,” said Lauscha. “We could not be more excited to start working with David and bringing our fans a team that will compete at a high level and one that they can be proud of supporting.”
For Griffin, coming to New Orleans seemed almost destined, as he opened his remarks with a story of his love affair with the Crescent City beginning with a trip when he was 14 years old.
Pelicans fans will be happy to adopt the now 45 year old Griffin as a native son if he can bring the same type of success he’s known to a franchise that has long been searching for consistency and respectability.
Having turned down a number of seemingly higher profile jobs over the past few seasons, Griffin was ready to commit to the Pelicans because of Benson’s ability to convey her commitment to winning.
“I am very excited to join the Pelicans organization as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations,” said Griffin. “This is a tremendous opportunity to build something special in New Orleans and I firmly believe it begins with great ownership along with a very strong leadership teams.”
There has been speculation that Griffin will hire Los Angeles Clippers assistant general manager Trent Redden for the GM’s position with the Pelicans. Redden was Griffin’s top aide with the Cavaliers.
While the identities of all of those who may be coming to join the Pelicans may not be known, Griffin is keeping Alvin Gentry as head coach and hopes to entice estranged superstar Anthony Davis to remain in New Orleans.
“Well, keeping (Gentry) around was a no-brainer for me,” said Griffin. “Once we met and talked about where he was in his thought process and his desire to be part of what the vision was, it was a given.”
“Alvin was really honest about the fact that he’s at his best when he’s ‘fearless Alvin.’ When he’s not looking over his shoulder. When he’s not feeling like he has to do everything by himself. And I think we can put him in the space to be the best of his angels, and when he’s a lesser of his angels, or when I am, one of the two of us will have it out with the other.”
Both worked together in Phoenix, with the franchise averaging better than 55 wins over six seasons from 2004-10.
Opinions on Gentry’s coaching ability put to the side, it is inarguable that he was faced with tremendous challenges over the past four seasons. Each year was filled with rumors about Anthony Davis’ future (we’ll get to that in a moment), constant roster turnover, and injuries.
This past season, Gentry was forced to use 31 different starting lineups. His opening night quintet of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Elfrid Payton, E’Twaun Moore and Nikola Mirotic played a grand total of five games together (5-0).
With Gentry still under contract for the next two seasons, on a performance-based compensation structure, it seems that Griffin is willing to see what he can do with the first clean slate he’s had in NOLA.
Attempting to bring Davis back into the fold appears to be more about an executive doing his due diligence before trading away a player with such talent. Griffin, however, seems to think that the two sides can come together and that Davis can be around long-term.
“Rich Paul and I have spoken about Anthony and I think we’re both excited about what we can potentially build here,” said Griffin. Paul and Klutch Sports represent Davis.
“Rich Paul and I were part of succeeding. (Davis and Paul) will understand when I say this, ‘You are either all the way in or all the way out’.”
It’s hard to believe that Davis could ever be all the way in with the Pelicans again, but Benson has given her new VP the opportunity to try to keep the franchise’s greatest player in the nest.
“We certainly don’t want somebody here whose heart isn’t in it, but hopefully Anthony will have a change of heart and if he does, we’ll welcome him back with open arms,” she said.
Fans may not feel the same way today, but stranger things have happened. I guess.
Ultimately, Griffin is here to mold the Pelicans in the image of places like Portland, Utah, and Denver. He must create a culture where winning is the expectation and market size is not a variable in the formula needed to do so.
As of April 17, 2019, everyone is saying the right things.
Now Benson, Griffin, Gentry and the rest of the staff need to go about the business of doing them. Time to take flight.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…