Saints owner Tom Benson buys Hornets from NBA

By Brian Mahoney

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 13 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

In 2010, former owner George Shinn decided to pull out. He was unable to find a buyer who would commit to keeping the team in New Orleans, so the NBA took the unprecedented step of taking ownership of the team and has been working to find a new permanent local owner for a year-and-a-half.

As part of the effort to attract a new owner, team officials spent the past offseason conducting an unusual campaign to build the club's season-ticket base to 10,000, which the league considers a benchmark for successful franchises. The campaign involved social mixers in the homes of prominent business people in the region.

The team also attracted more major corporate sponsors for the 2011-12 season than it had ever had since moving to the Big Easy.

It was not immediately clear how a change in ownership might the front office personnel who led marketing effort for the Hornets in the past year or the coaching staff, as there was no immediate word from Benson or his associates on that front.

Head coach Monty Williams and general manager Dell Demps each are in their second season, having joined forces to help the Hornets make the playoffs last season.

This season, the team decided to honor star guard Chris Paul's request for a trade and went into rebuilding mode. Benson will take control of a club that will miss the playoffs, but which also will have at least one — probably two — picks in the NBA's draft lottery. The Hornets also control the Minnesota Timberwolves first-round pick in 2012.

Also unclear is whether Benson might seek to rebrand the franchise to give it more of a Louisiana flavor. The Hornets were the team's original name in Charlotte. Basketball fans in New Orleans still regularly complain on talk radio and in internet chat rooms about Utah's refusal to give up the nickname Jazz, a reference to a genre of music born in the Big Easy and a cherished part of the city's heritage and culture.

Still, if not Jazz, there are other names that might speak more to the local culture than the name Hornets, and perhaps enhance the growing perception that the NBA is at last taking root in Louisiana.

AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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