At long last, we've got a definitive leader of the team's basketball operations. As with the coaching hire, the Hornets went through a thorough, yet quick search process. And just as with Monty Williams, there's reason to believe the Hornets have made a great decision to conclude the process.
After the jump, an introduction to your new GM.
Dell Demps was born in Long Beach, California. After moving to Hayward, California, he attended Mt. Eden High School as a teenager. A very good high school student, he dreamed of attending Stanford University. But a poor SAT score led to his rejection, and Demps ended up attending the University of the Pacific after originally committing to the Cardinal.
Demps played guard at UOP, with many describing the 6'4" guard's physical playing style as "bullish." As a sophomore, he lead UOP basketball to their first winning season in a decade. After his four years there, Demps finished as UOP's second all time leading scorer and all time leading assister.
After college, Demps played internationally in Greece, Croatia, Turkey, and France. He also played in the NBA for the Warriors, Spurs, and Magic. In sum, Demps played 10 years of professional basketball (in 108 NBA minutes, he attempted 42 shots, making exactly half). As many people have reported by now, Demps was a teammate of Monty Williams during the 1995-1996 season. A little box score sleuthing reveals that the pair only played together two times, for a total of five minutes.
Demps' first managerial role came as an assistant coach in the NBADL from 2001 to 2003. At the end of his D-League stint, he joined the New York Knicks as a player scout. (As of 2005, the Knicks noted that Demps had been with them for four years. Either Demps both coached in the D-League and scouted for New York at the same time, or more likely, there's a discrepancy in the reported dates). In May 2005, New York promoted him to Director of Pro Player Personnel, making him the team's main talent evaluator.
It's tough to pinpoint exactly which moves Demps was responsible for in New York (though he's credited with the discovery of Jackie Butler) because five months later, the San Antonio Spurs added him as their director of pro personnel. In San Antonio, Demps served two roles- the same one he'd held with the Knicks, but also the General Manager of the Spurs' (individually owned) D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros.
In Austin, Demps managed Ian Mahinmi, Marcus Williams, and Rod Benson, among others. When Demps joined San Antonio, the Toros were a middling team, playing .500 ball in his first season at the helm. By the time he left, Austin had made the playoffs three consecutive seasons. It's obviously debatable how much stock should be put into those results, but it's certainly worth noting.
His work with the big league team has also been impressive. In 2006, the Spurs had only one pick (the 59th overall). In 2007 though, the team took Brazilian Tiago Splitter with the 28th overall pick. Splitter will play in the NBA for the first time in 2010-2011 and is widely considered to be an instant-impact addition. With the 33rd pick, San Antonio selected Marcus Williams, who has certainly fizzled out, but the selection was still a well calculated gamble at the time.
In 2008, the team took George Hill with the 26th overall pick. Hill provided amazing value for San Antonio, especially given his draft position, and has supplanted Tony Parker as the team's starter. This also brings up an interesting sidebar: in Las Vegas, I spoke to some of the guys behind Synergy Sports, the company that video-logs every play of every NBA game and about 70%-80% of all Division 1 college basketball games. The conversation swung to various teams' usage levels of Synergy's advanced stats/video services. The Spurs' front office apparently requested video after video of George Hill's school- Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis- for many months and was a heavy subscriber to Synergy's services. (Another sidebar to the current sidebar: Interestingly enough, Jeff Bower, the Synergy team informed me, was among the most prolific users of their software packages too).
Also in 2008, the Spurs took Goran Dragic with the 45th overall pick. Dragic is really only a Steve Nash away from being a starting point guard in this league. And In 2009, San Antonio took DeJuan Blair with the 37th overall pick. We don't know how his knees will hold up as the years go by, but for now, Blair stands as one of the all-time steals in the history of the NBA draft. Suffice it to say, the Spurs had a devastatingly good run while Demps worked in their front office. Again, assigning credit is not exactly easy here. But Demps was surely involved in analyzing every single one of those players.
Other teams wanted Demps; he was atop Phoenix's list, and it's easy to see why. He's smart, personable, and young. Like Monty Williams, he's been rising meteorically over the last few years. At the same time, he already has years of experience. You won't find too many first-time, 40 year old GMs that already have nine years of coaching and managerial experience.
And in that sense, you have to admire what the Hornets have done this summer. As dishearteningly drawn out as the ownership transfer has been, and as awfully timed as the Jeff Bower firing was, New Orleans is slowly but surely reloading its front office. The team absolutely hasn't gone with the "safe" picks, thus far. How many teams in this league, given Chris Paul potentially ready to leave in two seasons, would pin their hopes on a rookie head coach and a first time GM? It would have been so, so easy to hire an "experienced" coach and GM.
Instead, the Hornets are rolling the dice on two guys they believe in. As much as the front office has been maligned by rumors, the national media, and even us, I respect them for that. Mad props, fellas.
Welcome to New Orleans, Mr. Demps. Good luck.