The New Orleans VooDoo, on Wednesday morning, revealed its new management, the Arena Football League franchise’s attempt to better itself on the field and in the community.
New coach Dean Cokinos called inheriting last season’s 3-15 squad, “an opportunity.”
“We have the ground floor to work, to get this to the next level quickly,” said Cokinos, who has coached in the AFL in Nashville (2005-07) and Alabama/Georgia (2010-12). He won championships in the defunct Af2 (Tennessee Valley Vipers in 2008) and the Professional Indoor Football League (Alabama Hammers in 2013).
“I think we can do this in one year, but it’s going to take commitment from the top to the bottom, focusing on every day, being the most competitive we can be.”
The VooDoo also hired Metairie native Brandon Rizzuto as general manager. Rizzuto, who spent the past two seasons as assistant athletic director for communications at UNO, previously worked for the VooDoo as vice president (2011-12).
“We know a lot of things about New Orleans, but we’re not New Orleans,” said VooDoo managing partner Dan Newman of himself and co-owner Doug Harrington. Neither live full-time in New Orleans.
“We have made a concerted effort to bring somebody into our ownership and management that is New Orleans. Thank God, Brandon Rizzuto said yes.”
Cokinos will handle the vast majority of team personnel issues, while Rizzuto focuses on branding the VooDoo in the region. Last season, the VooDoo announced an average of 5,504 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, statistics that did not match actual fans in the stands.
“Dean Cokinos is going to (fix) a lot of that,” Rizzuto said. “He’s a winner. And if the product on the field improves, I think the fans will definitely buy in and improve. And also, I think awareness; we didn’t make our product as aware for our fans.”
“(This season) you’ll hear about our games, you’ll know we exist.”
Cokinos said the VooDoo have retained seven 2013 VooDoo rookies, including quarterback Adam Kennedy, New Orleans natives Marlon Favorite (Archbishop Shaw/West Jefferson High/ LSU) and Leonardo Bates (Higgins, Louisiana-Lafayette) and Bastrop native Josh Downs (LSU).
The VooDoo will host tryouts Nov. 15 at Pan American Stadium.
Also on site was newly-hired AFL Commissioner Scott Butera, whose future ambitions include outdoor AFL games and creating a league in China. The league had previously announced plans in China dating to 2012 with former commissioner Jerry Kurz, who is now league president.
“We obviously want to grow within the United States first and foremost, but we think there’s opportunities overseas,” Butera said. “We have a group that’s working right now in China. We think we have a big opportunity there.”