Trajan Langdon spent less than eight months working in Cleveland under then-Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, but the lessons Langdon learned, from the inner workings of running a G-League franchise to monitoring egos in a star-studded locker room to hiring and firing a head coach on an eventual NBA title winner, have stuck with him.
It’s why Langdon was more than receptive to Griffin’s calls about filling New Orleans’ vacant general manager position after Griffin beat him out for the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations gig. And it’s why Langdon, with a long list of prior responsibilities in a variety of environments, said he didn’t need a black-and-white job description to persuade him to add to Griffin’s trophy case of acquisitions since taking over in New Orleans last month.
“He’s all-inclusive. He brings in people he trusts, and he relies upon and empowers those people,” Langdon said of Griffin during a conference call Tuesday morning. “He doesn’t micro-manage. He puts stars in roles but lets them grow while they’re in those roles. You could be leading pro scouting but in on a meeting about discussions leading up to the trade deadline.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry showed up to Bayou Oaks Golf Course on Monday morning for the Saints Hall of Fame Celebrity Golf Classic without a…
“One thing I enjoyed in Cleveland was the autonomy and belief he had in me. I felt like I could learn a lot from him. It’s all about the challenge and continuing to learn. This opportunity gives me that.”
The hiring of Langdon, Griffin said, is a perfect example of a nugget he revealed during his own introductory news conference, when he said he relished the ability to work with someone whose familiarity with him would bring about the brutal honesty he said was vital to growing a franchise the right way.
“We’ll do everything we do together, and we have an opportunity to push each other and challenge each other to grow together, just I said with (coach Alvin Gentry),” Griffin said. “The most important thing is our history together and the trust between us individually that can challenge each other in ways strangers can’t do.”
Langdon, last year’s G-League Executive of the Year, said he and Griffin hadn’t hashed out specific responsibilities to clearly separate one’s role from the other — aligning with Griffin's idea of “getting the right people on the bus going in the right direction” and figuring out tasks and titles as needed.
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While Griffin will run point with Anthony Davis’ camp about the All-Star’s future in New Orleans, Langdon will show his own strengths as the Pelicans take over a G-League franchise this season in Erie, Pennsylvania, before eventually moving it to Birmingham, Alabama. During his three-year stint in Brooklyn as the Nets assistant general manager, Langdon oversaw the transition of the team’s developmental franchise from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Long Island.
That move mirrored what Langdon said was a slow-but-steady growth process in Brooklyn of experimenting and eventually finding a clear path towards building a perennial contender after winning just 21 games in 2015-16 and 20 in his first full season with the organization. Both Langdon and Griffin said they realize that patience is required for growth.
“(In Brooklyn) you have really good people that all had the same mindset and were willing to do things the right way and believed in a organization greater than themselves,” Langdon said. “As long as you have the right people that have the right vision headed in the same direction with the same goal, you can do special things.”
The first reaction was euphoria.
The decision to uproot his wife and kids once again, after having lived in San Antonio from 2012-15 before moves to Cleveland in 2015 and Brooklyn in 2016, wasn’t one Langdon made lightly. But after holding the outsider’s perspective that the Pelicans as a franchise, even two months ago, “weren’t good enough, not bad but not good enough," the new general manager remarked of the dramatic 180-degree turn the franchise has made — driven by Griffin’s insistence on winning each day — whether that be landing the No. 1 pick or laying down the framework for practice facility renovations.
“Griff has told me how much Mrs. (owner Gayle) Benson is set upon the Pelicans being her baby and the team being successful,” Langdon said. “They want to win, but they want to build the organization the right way with the right people to sustain excellence.
“One thing that led to success in Brooklyn was building from within. Developing and finding those diamonds in the rough as a coaching staff. Developing a G-League player into a potential Sixth Man of the Year or a 3-point champion.”
While hands clutched at hearts, covered mouths in suspense and squeezed others’ fingers, the room went silent for less than half a second. Sca…