Benson Adamant On Changing Hornets' Name To Reflect Something With Local Ties
New Hornets Owner Tom Benson during his introductory press conference yesterday “reiterated his desire to change the Hornets' nickname to something more identifiable with New Orleans,” according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Benson said, "I'm going to ask all of you to help me with this, too. We want to change the name from Hornets … to something that means New Orleans and Louisiana. The 'Hornets' doesn't mean anything." However, NBA Commissioner David Stern dismissed the possibility of reacquiring Jazz, the "name of Utah's NBA franchise that had its birth in New Orleans in 1974.” Stern: “There are many things that are indigenous to the area. I'm sure there will be some wonderful nicknames." Benson, who also owns the Saints, confirmed that his two sports franchises “will be managed separately, with some slight personnel crossover in yet-to-be-determined areas” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/17). Meanwhile, Benson said that he “wants a new practice center” for the Hornets. Benson: "The first thing we've got do is get a practice facility that's going to be what we ought to have to get this team ready to win a championship." The AP’s Brett Martel noted the Hornets currently “practice in a suburban event center across the Mississippi River from where the Saints are headquartered.” The Hornets' lease “contains a pledge of $10 million that can be used either toward a new practice center or improvements to the New Orleans Arena, which already is slated for about $50 million in improvements during the next two years” (AP, 4/16).
LET'S BOOGIE: In New Orleans, John DeShazier noted a “front-running ownership group, headed by California businessman Raj Bhathal, had been identified and considered a virtual lock for months” in the bidding for the NBA team’s ownership, but Benson “swooped in and bought the Hornets when few, other than Stern … were watching.” In the process, Benson “fulfilled every requirement on Stern’s wish list for a New Orleans owner.” DeShazier: “Local? Check. Enthusiastic about keeping the franchise in New Orleans? Check. Receptive of the lease agreement that will bind the franchise to New Orleans through 2024? Check. Financial wherewithal, political influence, business connections and advisory group to raise the franchise to new heights? Check.” Stern called Benson “the most important owner in the history of the New Orleans Hornets.” It is a “heavy load that the Saints’ owner has positioned himself to carry, but Stern’s assessment very well could turn out to be true.” DeShazier wrote Stern has “carried the city’s NBA interests.” Stern said, “I would say that Tom and Gayle Benson are the ideal owners for the New Orleans Hornets. If we were looking for the perfect owner … we couldn’t have done better. We would have had to invent him” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/17).