Should the New Orleans Pelicans pursue a separate general manger and President of Basketball Operations or entrust one person to function in a dual role like Danny Ainge (Boston), Mitch Kupchak (Charlotte) or Neil Olshey (Portland)?
I tend to believe that if you truly believe in a candidate for either GM or POBO that it makes a lot of sense to give them the most capability to execute their vision. If the Pelicans feel that they found a great candidate, go all in. Allow that person to then set up the rest of the hierarchy below him.
A bigger personnel department should be the mandate moving forward. More highly intelligent voices should be fostered as a sounding board to set the new era of Pelicans basketball in motion. This team definitely needs a president, a gm, a larger scouting and analytics department.
In the previous question I suggested Mike Zarren, Wayne Embry, Sachin Gupta and Shareef Abdur-Rahim as POBO candidates, and all of them would clearly be top level choices for the general management position, but to expand the list of potential GMs I’d suggest Trajan Langdon (Brooklyn), Troy Weaver (Oklahoma City), Brian Pauga (San Antonio), Gerson Rossas (Houston), Ben Tenzer (Denver), Justin Zanik (Milwaukee) and Bill Branch (Portland).
Chris: Leaning separate
I think it depends on the hire and what comes first. If the Pels fall in love with a young candidate like the aforementioned Trajan Langdon, a general manager-president tandem would probably make sense due to a lack of overall experience. A guy like Mike Zarren who has spend his time under Danny Ainge however, may be ready for a role of complete power.
But for a team looking to rebuild their entire basketball spectrum, it would be a nice shift to move one step at a time and be a little more traditional off the bat. Hiring a POBO and then letting them find a GM of their liking would be my course of action. The Pels need structure and a hierarchy that can navigate a path the organization can trust.
The more smart basketball minds the Pelicans can have, the better. I am all for having separate roles for President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, even if they functionally share the same power. There are a lot of skills necessary to excel at building a successful NBA franchise, and trying to find them in a single person would be an incredibly risky pursuit. Find a pair of executives who complement each other nicely and let them execute a plan together.
To me, it depends on the candidate. Someone like Mike Zarren from Boston would likely command the dual title that so many of the most powerful general managers possess. If a candidate of Zarren’s caliber demands a dual title, I would absolutely give it to them if it meant securing their services. On the other hand, if New Orleans is looking at younger GM prospects like Brooklyn’s Trajan Langdon — whom I also like — then I would lean more towards keeping the rolls separate. However, if the Pelicans do decide to make the two positions separate, the President of Basketball Operations should definitely be hired first and allowed to choose his or her own general manager.
It seems the Pelicans may have already tipped their hand as it appears New Orleans is looking for a candidate who can serve in both capacities. However, the Pelicans would be better suited to hire several people to fill both positions. As wonderful of a job Mrs. Gayle Benson has done so far, the Pelicans need basketball minds at every level. Having more respected voices spreads the accountability around and would benefit the Pelicans chances going forward.
David Fisher: Separate
The Pelicans should invest in two people. Tim Connelly left his position as assistant GM with New Orleans in 2013 for the Denver Nuggets. That position was never again filled although you could stretch and call Danny Ferry’s position as special advisor to be the assistant GM.
Connelly was later promoted to President of Basketball Operations (POBO, you’ll be reading that a lot) in Denver in order to promote his assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas to GM for purposes of retention. The Pelicans should pursue a similar arrangement with the POBO as primary decision maker with his “assistant” holding the title of GM.
I think this is somewhat dependent upon the hire. Should the team bring in an experienced candidate, like the oft-rumored David Griffin for example, he is of the quality and capability to fulfill the dual role as his peers around the league. But should the team lure a more up and coming candidate, a la Mike Zarren of the Boston Celtics, then I would like to see the franchise consider adding another veteran decision maker to help provide council, advice and communications around the league.
David Grubb: Dual
The most important thing is the capability of the individual. So many teams have dual role holders, that it isn’t unusual at all. Gayle Benson, Mickey Loomis, and whomever else is part of the decision-making process need to empower the next leader of the Pelicans to build the identity of the franchise going forward.
The overall mission of the Pelicans will inherently be tied to its financial success, so finding someone focused on the long-term viability of the franchise both on the floor and off is critical.
I’d like to see the next person come in with an organizational chart and plan ready to go. If the individual is more business oriented, they had better be supported by strong basketball people; and vice versa. Competing voices with the same vision are also important, in my opinion. Basketball traditionalists and analytics experts should both have a place in the organization.
Considering the endless hours and amount of duties that must be juggled, those operating at the top of front offices will always have their hands full. Responsibilities need to be divvied up among trusted employees regardless, but the person standing on the highest rung of the ladder still needs to wear a number of different hats. Some have made it work, thanks to having great people around them, but common sense dictates it would be best to split that work load.
Bob Whitsitt, a former GM in the league who was credited with drafting Shawn Kemp for the Supersonics and then Jermaine O’Neal with the Trail Blazers, once said, “There’s just so much happening on all fronts. As the game continues to grow, there are more opportunities and challenges in each position. If you’re the only one involved in all areas, you can’t do everything the way you want to do it.”
Having a general manager handle all of the day-to-day operations while a President of Basketball Operations primarily concern themselves with the bigger picture and be the final decision-maker in matters of importance makes for a good starting point in any front office.