The New Orleans Pelicans mutually parted ways with general manager Dell Demps, the team announced on Friday.
Demps had served in that role with the franchise since June 2010. The Pelicans selected Danny Ferry as interim general manager.
“We will immediately begin the process of restructuring our basketball operations department,” Pelicans owner Gayle Benson said in a 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.”
The Pelicans are 26-33 at the All-Star break after reaching the second round of the playoffs last season.
Demps was unable to make a deal at the Feb. 7 trade deadline for disgruntled superstar Anthony Davis, who is under contract through the 2019-20 season, with a player option for 2020-21. Davis requested a trade in late January.
Demps had discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers about a trade, but the sides did not appear to be close. Lakers president Magic Johnson, asked later if he thought New Orleans had negotiated in good faith, answered, “No.”
Benson thanked Demps for his efforts in the team’s news release.
“I would like to extend my appreciation to Dell for his tireless work and commitment to our team over the last eight-plus years,” Benson said. “Dell, his wife Anita, and his family have been a credit to our city and I wish them nothing but the greatest success going forward.
“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.”
Ferry has been a special adviser for New Orleans over the past three seasons.
Ferry, 52, has twice previously served as a general manager — with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-10) and Atlanta Hawks (2012-15).
Ferry took a 10-month leave of absence from his duties with Atlanta after reading a scouting report out loud that contained “offensive and racist” comments about then-Miami Heat player Luol Deng. He reached a buyout with the Hawks in June 2015.
He joined the New Orleans organization in June 2016.
Regarding Demps, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Twitter that “team ownership was livid with an injured Anthony Davis leaving arena during Thursday night’s game, sources say. Gayle Benson is telling associates she wants an overhaul of Pelicans and a search for a GM to take command of Davis trade talks and the reshaping of team’s future.”
Benson outlined her expectations in the news release.
“My expectations, and the expectations of our fans, are that this team will compete at a high level for the remainder of the season,” Benson said.
“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. Finally, I would like to recognize and thank our fans for their support through all of this. I am excited about our future and the opportunities ahead.”
New Orleans made the playoffs three times under Demps, in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
In October, former NBA commissioner David Stern said Demps “is a lousy general manager” in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
Stern recounted how, in 2011, with the NBA acting as the New Orleans team’s interim owner, Demps came to him for approval of a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul, then in his sixth NBA season, all with New Orleans, to the Lakers.
New Orleans would have received Lamar Odom from the Lakers and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic from the Rockets, plus a first-round draft pick that the Rockets had acquired in a previous deal with the New York Knicks.
The Rockets would have received Pau Gasol from the Lakers.
Acting as the Hornets’ owner, Stern recalled, he said, “We can do better than that” return for Paul.
About a week later, Stern approved trading Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and an unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick.
The Clippers also received two future second-round picks.
Despite that haul, Stern said, “Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis.”
At that time, the Pelicans responded with a tweet saying they have “the utmost confidence in our general manager, Dell Demps” and that they are “excited about the direction of our team.”
—Field Level Media