Can Mrs. Benson find another Jim Finks for the Pels?

By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports

When it comes to hitting the reset button, the Pelicans may never get a better chance.

A summer trade of Anthony Davis could yield a harvest in young talent and draft choices.

And, as New Orleans sinks in the Western Conference standings, the club could climb in the NBA draft lottery.

So, why does the body language of interim general manager Danny Ferry seem to portray an executive who doesn’t appear to be a temp worker?

Ferry, hired as a special advisor by the Pelicans in June 2016, had a solid resumé as the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

His stay there included a trip to the NBA finals and trades for Shaquille O’Neal and Antwan Jamison.

In Atlanta, Ferry drafted guard Dennis Schroder in the first round and hired San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, who was, for the Hawks, named NBA coach of the year in 2015.

In late February, Ferry made his first significant personnel move. The Pelicans added Euroleague and Latvian sharpshooter Dairis Bertens. The contract also includes a team option for 2019-20.

If Ferry is retained, that is certainly good news for head coach Alvin Gentry, who has handled the Anthony Davis trade demand with aplomb. Gentry’s team, while one of the worst in the Western Conference, has continued to play hard.

When Pelicans owner Gayle Benson parted ways with general manager Dell Demps, she said in a statement issued by the team that the Pelicans would compete “at a high level.”

In it, Mrs. Benson said she would like “to assure our fans that I am prepared to provide any, and all, resources to compete for championships.”

That is a “leave-no-stone-unturned” statement, which makes the potential hire of Ferry as the permanent general manager puzzling.

As your sales staff prepares to launch its season-ticket campaign for next season, you sell the general manager who worked under Demps? And, perhaps, the head coach who was part of an extremely disappointing season?

There could be a compelling case for the retention of Gentry, who was dealt a bad hand from the start of this season. Rajon Rondo, who starred in last year’s playoffs, departed for the Lakers. Forward/center Niko Mirotic played four games in December and seven in January. Point guard Elfrid Payton played one game in November and one game in December.

Last January, when Demarcus Cousins was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, the Pelicans made the playoffs and swept Portland in the first round, playing an entertaining, fast-paced style of basketball.

What’s happened since is a free fall. In their current roles, there’s likely only so much that Ferry and Gentry could do about it.

The upcoming decision on the future course of the Pelicans is critical. In 1986, Tom Benson got it absolutely right when he hired Jim Finks as Saints general manager and Jim Mora as head coach.

Twenty years later, Mr. Benson struck gold again with the selection of Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Now, Mrs. Benson gets her first big opportunity to prove her hoops acumen.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at

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