Report: Hornets select Demps as GM
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
The New Orleans Hornets have completed a coaching and front-office overhaul that emphasized promise over experience.
A little more than a month after making 38-year-old Monty Williams the youngest coach in the NBA, the Hornets have hired Williams' longtime friend and former NBA teammate, 40-year-old Dell Demps, as general manager.
"Beginning with the hiring of head coach Monty Williams, we've begun a path of building our basketball operations with people we feel are going to be the best in the business, and Dell Demps certainly fits into that category," Hornets president Hugh Weber said on Wednesday, when the Hornets formally named Demps as the seventh general manager in franchise history.
Demps takes over for Jeff Bower, who stepped down last week after spending nearly 15 years with the club in various capacities, the past five as general manager.
Bower also served as head coach for most of last season after the firing of Byron Scott.
Now the Hornets have a coach and general manager who both showed promise at their recent stops in the NBA, but have no track record in their current posts.
Like Williams, Demps is taking a bit of a risk in joining a Hornets franchise in transition. The club is in the midst of a prolonged ownership change as minority partner Gary Chouest looks to buy out majority owner George Shinn. Although the two owners had a verbal agreement in early May, negotiations on a final sale have been bogged down for months.
Meanwhile, star guard Chris Paul has said he wants the Hornets to prove their commitment to winning immediately, and while the Hornets say they intend to do so, there's no getting around their financial limitations.
The Hornets are saddled with expensive contracts this season for role players like Peja Stojakovic ($15.3 million), Emeka Okafor ($11.5 million) and James Posey ($6.5 million), and have little room under the NBA's luxury tax threshold.
Weber has said the club does not intend to take on any new debt while the sale is pending and must find creative ways to improve the roster.
Still, when healthy, the Hornets have enviable talent at some key positions, from point-guard Paul to power forward David West and promising second-year guards Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison.
"From the moment I spoke to Hugh and Monty about this opportunity, I could tell something special was building within the organization," Demps said. "The Hornets are a great organization with a lot of positive pieces."
Just as the Hornets liked the way Williams, as an assistant coach, helped mold a young Portland squad into a playoff contender, they also liked that Demps spent the past five years in San Antonio under general manager R.C. Buford, who has helped the small-market Spurs become perennial contenders.
"Dell shined through as a rising star from a program in San Antonio that has a tremendous history of building a franchise into a championship contender," Weber said.
Buford congratulated the Hornets on hiring Demps, predicting that his style would complement that of Williams, who started his coaching career in San Antonio as an intern under Gregg Popovich during the 2004-05 season.
"Having worked closely with both Dell and Monty, I'm confident that they will provide great leadership to the Hornets franchise," Buford said. "Dell has been a trusted confidant and an integral part of our organization."
Demps and Williams both played for San Antonio during the 1995-96 season. While the Hornets were looking for a new general manager, Demps and Williams had dinner together, although Williams said that was an unofficial meeting between friends.
"We did have dinner, but it was one of those nights where we were talking about San Antonio stuff and talking about when Pop used to rip us a new one back in the day," Williams said, grinning, the day before Demps was hired.
After the hiring was made offical, Williams was clearly pleased.
"I have been fortunate to know Dell for a long time and we share a lot of the same beliefs," Williams said. "He wants and has a great basketball pedigree, learning from some of the best minds in the business. Dell is a winner, hard worker and does things the right way. He will be a great asset."