In case a pelican seizes your phone, very big things would have happened Friday afternoon. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said that Danny Ferry was withdrawing interviews with GM's in Pels, and a few minutes later, announced the news that New Orleans would hire David Griffin be the executive vice president of basketball operations.
Make no mistake: this is a monumental moment for the New Orleans Pelicans franchise.
Forget the reasons for basketball for a bit. Clearly, Gayle Benson (and every NBA owner, from somewhere else) should want to hire someone knowledgeable enough to make the most important decisions of the franchise, and Griffin can certainly be qualified of people who can be trusted in such a role. You can learn more about his resume and achievements to date elsewhere.
I am focused on all other the reasons why hiring David Griffin is important.
Let's start with this report by Scott Kushner:
I spoke to league representatives who confirmed that David Griffin had been assured that the Pelicans were investing more in their box office under their direction. Expect to see additional staff and more levels, including a reinforced monitoring service.
Such a commitment is essentially a table challenge for a guy like Griffin to lead the team. Why would a top candidate take the job differently? It would be like trying to play a video game on a gamepad with a broken button. Of course, you can probably still play, but if all the other players you play against (agree, agree, I see you, The Lakers – almost everyone) have controllers that work perfectly you start with a disadvantage that you willingly accepted. choose to play, so you can not really use the broken button as an excuse to lose. Some people prefer to play with a broken button than not to play at all, but these are probably not the type of people with whom you want to place your bets. In any case, the mere fact that the Pelicans have demonstrated a commitment to this area worthy of Griffin's approval is at least an improvement, and at most a significant change from the past.
But it takes more than an investment in the long-term success of the team to win a candidate like Griffin. It's not as if he had not had opportunities before and would not have others in the future. If Griffin agrees to take over your team, it's better that he take over. For example, just two summers ago, he turned down the position of general manager of the Knicks. According to Woj, "The Knicks and Griffin were opposed to Griffin's lack of authority over basketball decisions and Griffin's preference to bring his own staff … In his next job, Griffin is looking for a office autonomy and establish a working partnership with the owner. In 2010, Griffin transferred the position of Executive Director of the Nuggets, both because of his salary and his level of uncertain authority. With this hiring, the pelicans ownership group essentially cedes all authority to Griffin and his eventual basketball team. For a franchise that has been perceived by many as "football executives running a basketball team," the lease indicates a significant change.
Which brings me to my next point about external perceptions of franchising. Supporters of the most knowledgeable pelicans understand that while there is some truth to the way the team's structure has been viewed historically, there is a lot of noise. That being said, often, it does not matter what is true and what is not, if that's what people believe (just ask the President of the United States). Forget it now. There is no more confusion about whether or not this is a football operation that also has a basketball team. Because, to be perfectly honest, Griffin would not sign up for that. If he had felt that he would be treated as a second-class citizen compared to his NFL peers, he would have gone through the door. This is a group of basketball owners determined to see his NBA franchise flourish.
Of course, this property group is headed by Gayle Benson, like this last year since the death of her husband, Tom. Despite senseless detractors fueling unfounded negative ideas about her ability to handle the Pelicans' franchise, she continues to say and do everything right (more about this in a second), even if it's not is not easy. For example, it would have been simple to remove the interim title from Ferry's position and make it the general manager of the Pelicans forward. Not just simple, but it would have been a totally acceptable thing to do. In a vacuum, Danny Ferry would be a perfectly reasonable candidate for a GM opener – he is very intelligent and has a great deal of experience in difficult decisions. But it's not going to cut him off for Gayle. She recognized the need for change and acted, probably engaging the best possible candidate by taking all the steps outlined above to show how serious she is for this team. After the dismissal of Dell Demps by the Pelicans, Gayle explained exactly how she planned to structure the team, and the announcement made yesterday proves that she was sincere.
If Gayle has done better than her late husband, it's open and transparent communication with the fans. Historically, pelicans have been an incredibly understated organization, for better or for worse. In hiring Griffin, Gayle recruited a leader who puts so much emphasis on communication. Although it is too early to say how much this will translate into the content and frequency of the messages sent to fans, it is hoped that the hiring of Griffin marks a philosophical change in the way the Pelicans approach their relationship with those who support them. Although this topic is not necessarily so fundamental to the team's chances of success on the ground, any action taken to strengthen the fan base is one that should not go unnoticed.
And with that, we are entering a new era of pelican basketball in New Orleans. Mrs. B. is not joking, all of you. Anthony Davis or not Anthony Davis, I could not be more excited. Let's go for a walk.