Some excerpts from Danny Ferry’s session with reporters following his introduction as Hawks GM.
From Ferry’s opening statement:
I was not looking to leave San Antonio. [Owner] Peter Holt, [coach] Gregg Popovich, [GM] R.C. Buford were incredible to me and my family. Obviously it’s a wonderful place to work.
But getting to know Bruce [Levenson] over the last several weeks made myself think and challenge myself whether this is the right thing to do. I was struck by his humble approach to the past [especially] for a team that has done well. There was a real sense of humility. I was really struck by his intensity, his focus, his energy about going toward the future and trying to build something from the ground up. This was critical to me to know that it can and will be done the right way.
Over the last four years, from 10,000 feet looking at it from San Antonio, this place has done pretty well. Rick [Sund] is a big part of that, Larry [Drew] last year obviously was a big part of that. I am coming here to build on what they’ve done a good job with so far.
My approach coming here, to be clear, is to try to have a value-based identity with good guys that play hard, play together, share the ball [and[ that can be professional on the court. From a program standpoint, from an operation standpoint being progressive, being systematic in how we go about everything whether it's the draft, player development, medical, and so on. And then just a consistent commitment from us building inside out with a good, strong culture and a family atmosphere. Those are the things we will look at every day and hopefully we are doing a good job with it.
Q. How will things work with the draft?
A. "I've been working, just not for the Hawks. I've gone and seen games all year. I am somewhat prepared for the draft as it relates to where the San Antonio Spurs where at [No. 59] and the players we were looking at. My focus changes now with the pick in the first round that the Hawks have in the first round. [The current staff] have done a good job. I will sit in on the process, I will be a part of the process and ultimately will be a big part of making the decision and the things that happen here over the next week.”
Q. What can you bring from San Antonio that can help you here?
“San Antonio, first of all, had a committed ownership. The Holts were fantastic. My conversations with Bruce made me feel comfortable that’s very much where he is and his heart and time and energy are going to go into that going forward. Values-driven; there are good people there. ‘Popp,’ R.C., go down the list of players, that’s a good group of people and ultimately that gives you the best chance to succeed.
“A systematic approach; on the court, the Spurs play a certain way. Hopefully the Hawks will build an identity in that regard even more from where they are now. And then building with the right people in general. The front office, when you look at the people who have come through there—Sam Presti, Rob Hennigan now, R.C. . . .
“‘Popp’ and R.C. have built a good program there and obviously it’s something people are trying to emulate. I had the opportunity to build a program in Cleveland, something I was proud of. We had a lot of success. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves. There are good things here. There are good players. They’ve had a succesful program. This has been a good program but also not something people are satisfied with here.”
Q. Why did you choose here instead of Philly?
“It would have been a great privilege working with Doug Collins. I think he’s a great basketball mind. . . . I got really comfortable with this opportunity as it relates to Bruce. What I get is a great sense of humility but also a sense of intense focus and passion and pride about what can happen here going forward, the resources, the willingness that made me excited about this opportunity.”
Q. This is a team that has been considered good but hasn’t been able to get over the hump. How can you get them there?
“This has been a good team. From the outside looking in, this has been a program that has been right there. I have my opinions from the outside but before I really answer I want to sit down with Rick and Larry. I don’t know all of the behind-the-scenes here. To be able to sit down with the two of those guys and really come up with where they think they are, I will be better able to answer that question. There are some good players. They’ve had some success. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to.”
Q. What will Rick Sund’s role be?
A. “What we agreed with is let’s work together the next month [through] the draft, free agency, summer league. And really table the discussion until then as far as what he wants and what’s ultimately best for the organization.”
Q. Did you come in here with the expectation that you could make a change with the head coach?
“I look forward to working with Larry. We will have a lot of time together over the next month to really get to know each other. They did a nice job last year as a team. As we get to know each other, hopefully something I can help him with going forward is growing as a coach and he helping me grow as a professional, as well.”
Q. Are there any ‘untouchables’ on the roster?
“I’m here [only] a day. . . . At the end of the day we want to win a championship. At some point we will uncover every stone and look at everything. This group has had a lot of success. It’s a question of, can you go to the next level or are there opportunities? You have got to know what the opportunites are, as well. I think this is a good group of players that has done well.”
Q. This team is in a situation where it’s good but not championship-caliber, yet not bad enough to get high draft picks. With no cap space and lots of committed salaries, how can you improve the team in these circumstances?
“We have our draft choices going forward, first of all. That’s important going forward. We are not encumbered in any way. That being said, the discussions I’ve had with Bruce and the organization have been nothing about players necessarily so far. It’s been more about, ‘Are you willing to do this the right way? Are you willing to invest? There’s a lot of things that we’ll invest in that you won’t see. NBA teams are fragile. The NBA is hard. You invest in all of those things ultimately you put yourself in the best position to succeed. I got comfortable Bruce is in this for the right way and the right reasons and willing to do the things to build the best program to have a chance to succeed and not be fragile and be more successful than average.”
Q. Bruce said you had concerns about this franchise that had to be addressed. What were those concerns? Was it the stability of the ownership? The sale that fell through? The lawsuits they’ve had in the past?
“This organization, Rick has done a good job. It’s had its challenges to deal with: the lawsuit, the sale. That’s a tough thing for a team to deal with. They’ve done a good job, they really, have. From the outside looking in, they’ve been a successful team. I don’t think they are satisfied, and they shouldn’t be. I’m here to build on that success but I knew I need the tools and the ability to be able to build on that. How we build the road map, that’s the stuff we start to dig into now. What are the options? What is the right direction based off of those options? Those are all of the things, I’m fortunate to be able to work with Rick over the next month, hopefully more than that, and get to know Larry over the next month and really dissect what the opportunities are. Look, I’m not walking into this blindly. But [evaluating the roster] is not where my main focus was at the start of this thing.”
Q. Why did you leave Cleveland?
A. “My contract was up. We were on different pages as far as the future. The dynamics of ownership changed on some level. They had five great years in Cleveland. We had the best record the last couple years. We went to the finals. I think we are all proud of what we did. At the end of the day, we didn’t win a championship. That’s disappointing but I’m proud of the program we had there and proud of what we did. Chris [Grant] is the GM there because we did a good job. Lance Blanks, who worked for me, he’s the general manager in Phoenix. Michael Winger is the No. 2 guy in Oklahoma City. We had a good program and good people. We are looking forward to putting together a program here and watching it grow.
“I had a good thing in San Antonio. I would not have made the decision to come here if I didn’t think it was good opportunity and a good challenge. It’s not something that’s going to be built over the first week, it’s not something that’s going to be six months or even the first year. Hopefully over time you will see that we’ve built a program that’s really well run, well-organized and prepared to make the best decision we can make and hopefully make the best decision going forward.”
Q. There is a debate here core about whether it’s time to break up the core of players. Where do you stand on that?
A. “There is going to be debate around every team. There was debate over what to do in San Antonio, there was debate over what to do in Cleveland, there is debate over what to do with the Lakers right now. It’s part of this. At the end of the day we will look at all the possible road maps are there and make decisions and move in a direction and hopefully we do it while building a stronger program than what’s already here. Again, they’ve been pretty good. Teams are trying to get where the hawks have been the last few years. So I have to walk in there with a certain respect for that. I’m looking forward to building on that as many ways as we can.”
Q. Both you and Bruce mentioned analytics as an area in which you want to invest. Some teams have proprietary systems. Would that be something you would bring here?
“We are going to look at everything. But I am allowed to do everything. If that’s something that makes sense and come to them and say this is something I want to do, I’m very confident the answer is going to be yes. We are going to look at everything in how we can get better in the organization and what resources need to help make that happen. I’m very comfortable with Bruce’s commitment to do that.”
Q. How much do you use advanced statistics?
“I think you use everything you can. You throw the kitchen sink at things and then you make a decision.”
Q. Do you think the issue of selling team is off the table?
“I would not have come here if I thought that was an issue and if I didn’t feel comfortable with that. Bruce has made me comfortable that he’s in this for the long haul and he hopes I’m standing next to him 12 years from now.”
Q. Do you anticipate there will be changes on your basketball operations staff?
“I don’t think there is time to think about anything right now other than draft and free agency. I am sure there will be changes. Whether that just means addition or whether that means changes we will have to dig into that. Based on what they tell me that we are going to build more programs, I would think we will have a few more people working for us.”
Q. You said that you will be heavily involved in the draft preparation. Will the pick ultimately be your decision?
“Hopefully we can build consensus over what the right hing is. But ultimately I will be the one that will have to make that decision if we can’t come to a consensus.”
Q. You were already doing draft prep for San Antonio. Will it be a matter of comparing notes with the Hawks’ staff?
“Yeah but, granted, we were preparing for the 50th pick. When Manu [Ginobili] got hurt early in the year we looked at the lottery because we didn’t know what the hell was going to happen. I’ve been out watching college games throughout the year and studied tape and done all of the things that we needed to do to prepare ourselves for the draft. For example, Kawhi Leonard we traded to get that draft pick. We traded to get George Hill.
“Do I know all of the guys that are going to be available at 23 like the back of my hand? No, but I know them pretty well. I will use the next few days to dig into those guys in particular. We will be looking at the whole draft because, who knows, maybe we do something else? We’ll see.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat