Two New Orleans sports franchises are finding themselves a little bit closer these days, as Saints’ owner Tom Benson has agreed to purchase the Hornets from the NBA for a reported $338 million.
Prior to the agreement, the long-term security of the Hornets was very much in doubt. The league-owned club was looking for a local owner to buy the team, but if none was found, relocation was a potential option. With Benson agreeing to buy the team, those fears went away.
“Tom Benson is rooted here. He’s a native,” Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune told Bill Littlefield. “While there are some concerns about how he’s going to make this work–two operations in one town–I do think, overall, it’s a very positive move and will be received very well.”
While the Hornets have struggled this season in the wake of the blockbuster trade that sent former New Orleans superstar Chris Paul to the Clippers, Duncan said the future could be looking brighter for the Hornets, particularly with two first-round draft picks in the upcoming June draft.
“I think fans understand that this is a transition period right now for the franchise,” he said. “I think fans are being remarkably supportive, and I think the organization has done a good job of making this a New Orleans team and not seen as a Charlotte team that moved to New Orleans.”
Across town, Joe Vitt will serve as interim coach during the suspension of Saints head coach Sean Payton. The only potential problem is that Vitt himself is also suspended for the first six games of next season as a result of the Saints bounty program. Duncan said the first priority for the Saints was continuity.
“They needed a strong leader, someone that knew Sean Payton’s philosophy, and Joe Vitt is his right-hand man. They’ll have to figure out how they’re going to run the operation in those six weeks, but otherwise, Joe Vitt will be the guy in charge throughout this offseason.”