Demps Recalls Early Basketball Career at 66th I'm In Event

Demps Recalls Early Basketball Career at 66th I'm In Event
By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer
August 12, 2011

While preparing to leave an Oakland, Calif., gymnasium in the late 1980s, Dell Demps met a frantic, middle-aged man who would help shape the course of Demps’ adult life. The man, who was wearing a blue polo shirt that read “GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS,” was in a full-on panic, because he’d been told to organize a full-court pickup game, but needed one more player to stage a four-on-four run.

“Do you play basketball?” the frazzled man loudly asked Demps.

“Sure, I can play,” calmly responded Demps, who at the time was in the midst of a standout college hoops career at the University of the Pacific.

“Well then, get your sneakers! Let’s go!” gruffly responded the stranger.

Remembering the incident more than 20 years later on Wednesday night, Demps said his first reaction was to wonder why he was being yelled at by someone he’d never met. However, Demps quickly decided to locate his basketball gear and get to the court.

It was a wise move. The stranger in question turned out to be Gregg Popovich, then an assistant coach for the Warriors under Don Nelson. Among the seven players who were waiting to start their pickup game were Golden State stars Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond.

Demps – who played exceptionally well that day, the first time anyone from the Warriors had ever seen him – went on to play three seasons in the NBA. He debuted in the league with Golden State during the 1993-94 season. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard also was a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 1995-96, a team whose general manager was Popovich (prior to Popovich taking over as the head coach of four Spurs championship teams).

After Demps’ playing days were over, the chance meeting with Popovich continued to pay dividends, when Popovich hired Demps to be part of the San Antonio front office. As Demps told a group of Hornets fans and members of the local legal industry at Wednesday’s “I’m In” event, his relationship with Popovich led to Demps eventually being named New Orleans’ general manager in 2010.

“I don’t know if I’d be standing here talking to you if I didn’t have that (late 1980s) meeting with Popovich,” Demps said to a group that included attorneys and other legal professionals. “I felt like that was my opportunity and I was prepared to take advantage of it.”

Demps’ story was one of the highlights from Wednesday’s industry influencer in the New Orleans Arena, the latest gathering that was part of the team’s ongoing “100 Events in 100 Days” initiative. There was another influencer scheduled for Thursday in the Hive, for members of the medical profession. Guests who attend are given a tour of the arena and treated to a multi-course dinner, while learning more about the franchise’s current outlook in New Orleans.

The Hornets have surpassed the 8,700 mark for season tickets sold for 2011-12, with an objective of eventually reaching 10,000. The team is hopeful to reach the goal in the near future, which would make purchasing the Hornets and keeping them in NOLA even more attractive to a local buyer.

“The goal is very simple,” team president Hugh Weber said to the group Wednesday. “To make the financial situation of this team so compelling, here in New Orleans, that we will have folks who will see (purchasing the Hornets) as a good investment.

“We’re very bullish, but we’ve got some work to do. We’re not quite at 10,000, but we’re getting there.”


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