Danny Ferry’s first step back into the NBA will come with the Pelicans.
The former Cavaliers and Hawks general manager — who has been out of the league since taking a leave of absence in Atlanta after he paraphrased insensitive remarks about Heat forward Luol Deng — is joining the Pelicans as a special adviser, the team announced Wednesday.
“I am excited to announce Danny Ferry has accepted our offer to join the New Orleans Pelicans basketball operations staff as a special advisor,” Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said in a release. “Danny’s experience, insight and achievements will be a welcomed addition to the Pelicans as we continue our quest to improve the team.”
The Pelicans did not release details of Ferry’s role, and Ferry via text message on Wednesday deferred questions to Demps. But a source said Ferry will work closely with Demps.
The two have known each other for more than a decade, and Demps has increasingly consulted with Ferry and used him as a sounding board since Ferry left the Hawks, a source said.
Demps made the decision to hire Ferry, a source said, with the approval of Pelicans ownership.
Ferry will be based out of Atlanta, not the Pelicans’ offices, but will travel to New Orleans as needed. He and Demps are still working out the details of how much time Ferry will spend in New Orleans and attend games, a source said.
The 49-year-old Ferry, a native of Hyattsville, Maryland, played 13 seasons in the NBA, 10 with the Cavaliers and three with the Spurs, with whom he began his front-office career.
He went on to two successful stints as a general manager, spending five seasons in Cleveland and three in Atlanta.
The Cavaliers went 272-138 between 2005-10 with Ferry as general manager and advanced to the 2007 NBA Finals. From 2012-15, he served as GM of the Hawks and built a team that went 60-22 in the 2014-15 season.
In September of 2014, Ferry took a leave of absence from the Hawks following the release of an audio recording of a conference call in which Ferry, discussing potential free-agent targets, said Deng had “some African in him,” paraphrasing a report from which he was reading.
Ferry — who advocated for signing Deng — went on to say on the call that Deng “has a storefront out front that is beautiful and great, but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you.”
An independent investigation found Ferry’s remarks to be paraphrasing from a background report on Deng which Ferry was reading during the call.
The writer of that background report — which was published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2014 — remains unknown, but one passage reads “(Deng) is a good guy on the cover but he’s an African. He has a little two-step in him = says what you want to hear, but behind closed doors he could be killing. Con isn’t bad but there. African-like, store front looks great but there’s a black market section in the back.”
The independent investigation of the incident, commissioned by the Hawks and conducted by an Atlanta law firm, found that Ferry’s comments were not “motivated by racial, ethnic, or country of origination bias or animus.”
In September of 2014, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that, based on Ferry reading from the scouting report, his comments were not “a terminable offense.”
Ferry remained on leave through the 2014-15 season and resigned in June of 2015.
“I wish the full context of the call was known, but I made a mistake,” Ferry told ESPN at the time. “Those words (should not have) come out of my mouth. I have to own that and I have.”
On Wednesday, almost 21 months after his leave of absence began, Ferry took his first step back into the NBA.
“Danny Ferry has years of experience in the game, an excellent basketball mind and a terrific track record,” Silver told The Advocate through a spokesman. “I am confident he’ll be a valuable contributor to the Pelicans organization.”