There are many different approaches to leadership, and there may be no greater evidence of that than through the styles of David Griffin and his predecessor, Dell Demps.
This isn’t intended as any piling on Demps. The results were what they were, and we can all move on from analyzing them any further. But, there was one non-basketball issue with regard to Demps that always stuck out: Dell didn’t like to talk.
As New Orleans Pelicans fans rode the roller coaster of disappointing seasons, heavy roster turnover, and a national narrative that chipped away at the reputation of the franchise, there were no reassuring words coming from the front office. When players were traded or extended, there was no one there to answer the questions. Demps once cancelled an end of season presser and never rescheduled.
No one disputes that there is a time and a place for everything, and typically the general manager or head of basketball operations don’t spend a lot of time with the media. The focus should be on the play of the team. And in a perfect world that would be true. However, that inability to communicate contributed to the growing frustrations of a fan base seeking any reason to believe the Pelicans were flying in the right direction.
Fast forward to July 16, 2019. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin is seated with four of his prized offseason acquisitions: Derrick Favors, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram. Though the players were front and center, it was Griffin who commanded the press conference.
Once again, Griffin focused on his vision for the Pelicans. It is one that includes a distinct identity, a focus on player development, high-character individuals, competitors at all levels of the franchise, and flexibility. And winning. Winning big.
“You can’t dream big enough in this league,” he said to a full media room. “I think I want everybody’s approach to this to be ‘Why not us.’ There’s no reason we can’t achieve anything we want to achieve.”
At times, David Griffin can sound a bit like a self-help guru. His optimism about the Pelicans would impress Leslie Knope. But in his presence, you believe. You believe because he does and he always has.
“I became a general manager after starting in the league as a game night intern in media relations,” Griffin said. “I did not play at a very high level at all. The only reason I’m sitting here is because I believe you can speak it into existence, and you can dedicate yourself to that you believe in.”
Griffin isn’t building a basketball team in his mind; he’s building a family, a culture. One that lasts and turns New Orleans from an NBA outpost to the home of a champion.
“There are many well run franchises that are building cultures that sustain themselves and build in a positive direction,” he said. “The energy you put out in the universe is going to attract like energy. So, our job is to make (the players) feel as much a part of the family as they can; such that they can’t imagine doing this anywhere else.”
Those watching at home while he spoke had to have felt that Griffin was talking to them as much as he was addressing the media.
That’s his gift. He brings people in.
For years, everyone around the Pelicans and many within felt locked out. Today, the fans who may have given up on the team over the years, now flood the streets on draft night and voraciously consume every bit of news about the Pelicans, longing for the day that the season begins.
Maybe you can speak success to existence. Whatever David Griffin is saying, people are listening, and the New Orleans Pelicans are better for it.