Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the New Orleans Pelicans.
For only being around 26 seasons, the New Orleans Pelicans franchise is well-traveled. For its first 14 seasons, beginning in 1988, the franchise was known as the Charlotte Hornets before former owner George Shinn picked up stakes because he couldn’t get another new arena out of the North Carolina city.
In 2002, the Hornets landed in New Orleans, bringing professional basketball to The Big Easy for the third time, the first since the New Orleans Jazz bugged out for Salt Lake City in 1979.
Hurricane Katrina forced the Hornets to temporarily leave New Orleans in 2005 because of the vast damage done to the downtown New Orleans Arena, so for two seasons, the club played the majority of its home games in Oklahoma City and was known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
Returning to New Orleans full-time in 2007, the Hornets put together a franchise-best 56-26 season in 2007-08, edging out the San Antonio Spurs to win the franchise’s first (and only) division title, but were knocked out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals, losing a Game 7 at home to the Spurs.
Shinn ran into financial difficulties in 2010 and after a sale to minority partner Gary Chouest fell through because of the team’s financial situation, the NBA bought the team from Shinn and Chouest and December 2010.
The Hornets operated as wards of the NBA for 18 months before New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson purchased the franchise in April 2012 and, at Benson’s insistence, the franchise changed its name in 2013 to the Pelicans, the state bird of Louisiana, freeing up the Hornets name to return to Charlotte, where it has significant historical ties.
The franchise has made the playoffs in 12 of its 26 seasons, the last time coming in 2011, but has never advanced beyond the conference semifinals.
Paul Silas is the winningest coach in franchise history, going 208-155 in five seasons bridging the gap between Charlotte and New Orleans from 1998-99 through 2002-03. Three coaches have more the 200 wins, however. Besides Silas, there is Allan Bristow (207-203 from 1991-92 through 1995-96) and Byron Scott (203-216 from 2004-05 through 2009-10).
The coach with the best winning percentage, however, is Dave Cowens, who was 109-70 from 1996-97 through 1998-99, when he was fired 15 games into the season.
The Hornets/Pelicans have had eight general managers, the longest-tenured of whom was Bob Bass, who had the job from June 1995 through June 2004.
And here are the best players, by position, for the Charlotte/New Orleans/New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets/New Orleans Pelicans since their inception in 1988-89. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise.