A fixture within the New Orleans sports community for the past several decades, New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has died at the age of 90. A year later, he was named the interim and then permanent coach of the Tigers. New Orleans is on a roll, and we have Tom Benson to thank for being a huge part of our continuing success.
He was 90 years old.
"When we had to get out of here to go to San Antonio, we met with the mayor, and the next day we moved to the Alamodome, with offices set up in the basement". The son of Thomas Milton Benson Sr. and Carmelite Marie Pintado Benson, he was raised in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, and graduated from St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin High School) in 1944.
He cut short his studies at Loyola University New Orleans to join the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving on the USS South Dakota, a battleship, during preparations for an invasion of Japan that never came to pass. He dropped out and made a fortuitous decision, becoming a bookkeeper for a local Chevrolet dealership.
Benson bought the NBA's New Orleans Hornets from the league for $338 million in 2012.
Benson, who was also owner of the New Orleans Saints, acquired the Pelicans in 2012.
National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell lauded Benson's commitment to the city in a statement on Thursday.
At home, Benson's stratospheric climb was often haunted by tragedy. The Saints reached the playoffs for the first time in 1987, and won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season.
The Saints would go to the playoffs three more times under Mora, in 1990, 1991, and 1992. In 2001, he negotiated an unprecedented $187 million in concessions and state subsidies to keep his team playing in the Louisiana Superdome through 2010 - a deal he said was necessary to succeed in small-market New Orleans. Benson's popularity hit a nadir when he seemed to be leaning toward moving the team permanently in the wake of Katrina.
Orgeron spent the 2008 season in New Orleans as the Saints' defensive line coach. Tom cared deeply about the city of New Orleans, and his leadership helped the Saints become a source of hope for the community following Hurricane Katrina. The victory, which came nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, was a milestone in the city's recovery.
He was known earlier in his tenure for a dance, nicknamed the Benson Boogie, he would do on the field to celebrate victories.