Atlanta Hawks: Co-owner Bruce Levenson Q-and-A

Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson was the point man for the team’s recruitment of general manager Danny Ferry. He said he took the lead because he had a previous relationship with Ferry back when Ferry was Cleveland’s general manager.

My impression is that the Hawks are more likely to make major moves with Ferry in charge rather than Rick Sund, who would have been more a caretaker if he’d stayed on as GM. Levenson said he’s not sure of Ferry’s plans because the two didn’t talk much about the current roster before he was hired, instead focusing on building a long-term program.

But Levenson said he believes the Hawks will benefit from an outsider’s fresh perspective because the owners are close to the current players.

“It will be interesting to see what direction he goes,” Levenson said.

Here are some excerpts from Levenson’s session with reporters yesterday:

From Levenson’s opening remarks at the press conference.

“We had hurdles to overcome to get Danny to come here. Not just because of some of the missteps that we’ve made but also because he and his family were in a great position in San Antonio. He turned down other opportunities to leave and teams were knocking at his door.

“We had dozens of meetings–Rick, my partners, Michael [Gearon Jr.] and Ed [Peskowitz]. For every question we asked [Ferry], he asked 10 of us. Danny challenged us to make sure of our commitment. To make sure my heart is in this. To make sure we all invest of our time and our money to build an enduring, championship organization.

“He wanted commitments from us to increase our investments in our facilities, in our sports medicine and science, in analytics and, most importantly, in our player development. We said yes, yes and yes.”

Q. It sounds as if you kind of had to sell Danny on the job. What concerns did he have and what did you tell him to alleviate those concerns?

A. “Above everything else, he was concerned would ownership make the commitment that needs to be made to create the enduring championship organization that he only wants to be a part of. He had a laundry list of things that he wanted to talk about, some of which I spoke of up there, others I’m not going to get into. There is literally a laundry list of things that he was not come here if we didn’t agree to that.”

Q. You mentioned facilities as one of them. Also, basketball operations–

A. “Analytitcs. There is a new wave of analytics sweeping over us. There is new investments in sports medicine and sports science that need to be made. There’s a whole litany that can be done from a player-development standpoint, such as an affiliation with a D-League team. These are just some of the things that we have talked about and he has shown me why they are all important, why they are all part of building something enduring here.”

Q. He was concerned about having autonomy if he took the Philadelphia job. Did you ensure him complete control of basketball operations and decisions?

A. “Yes.”

Q. That was an important consideration for him?

A. I think that was a given probably from the first sentence. From his end, and mine as well.

A. You have no cap space, and not much room under the luxury tax, the exact amount won’t be known until the league audit. If it comes down to it will you spend into the tax? I know you did this year because of circumstances but do you anticipate being a tax payer going forward?

“The answer is, yes we have in the past and if it makes sense, I am sure we will in the future. Those are going to be Danny’s decisions. They really are. It’s interesting, Michael, we spent 100 hours talking to each other. I’m not exaggerating. And I can’t recall a single minute we spent discussing this current roster—sign this player, trade for that player. We didn’t have any discussions whatsoever along those lines.

“Our discussions were, ‘How are we going to build something long-term?’ My kids find this hard to believe because they keep asking me: ‘Well, what are we going to do about this player? What about that player?’ I tell them we haven’t had those conversations. There is a much, bigger long-term picture here that Danny and I spent all of our time focused on.”

Q. How would you describe Danny’s team-building philosophy?

“We had some really interesting conversations about that. He brings a focus to the draft that is, if you look at San Antonio’s and Cleveland’s success in that regard, it’s really a broad focus that shows a really deep understanding of everything from the analytics to the team chemistry to the psychology of a player. How you look at a player and look at if this player has a chance to be developed in a real player-development program.

“We talked about one example—I don’t want to go into the [name of the] player—it was a player they thought they could take a chance on, an area of deficiency in his game they felt confident they could improve. This player was undervalued because of that. That sort of ability to capture that kind of value is going to be really, really important with the new collective bargaining agreement.”

Q. San Antonio has had a lot of success with finding undervalued players–

A. “It’s not been luck. There really has been a devotion to a process. Investment in things you can’t look at and say, ‘Oh, that’s going to give you ‘x’ return on your investment. But it’s something, taken collectively, has produced the sort of home runs they’ve been able to produce in player development over a long period of time. In the new collective bargaining agreement, having an edge like that is going to be the diffence between winning and losing.

Q. You said you talked to Rick three months ago and decided to make a long-term hire. What about the timing picking up Drew’s contract before having a GM in place. What was the thinking there?

A. We had already begun talking to Danny. Rick and I had that dinner three or four months ago, and the next morning I called the Spurs and asked can I talk to Danny. I did start talking to Danny that day. We picked up Larry’s contract subsequent to that. We were far from coming to terms with Danny at that point. I did discuss the wisdom of what we did there [with Ferry].

Q. He was fine with that?

A. “He was fine with it, yes.”

Q. You tried to sell the team last year. Are there still plans to sell the team by you or any of your partners?

No.

Q. Was that a question Danny had for you?

“We have one of the smallest ownership groups in the NBA. I would love to find strategic investors to bring into the group, not so much for their money but for other things they might bring to the table. That may happen at some point. But, no, we are not selling the team. We are very much in control of the team. We will be in control of the team for the long haul, for a long time.

Q. Normally it’s Michael [Gearon Jr.] here. Where is he?

“He’s out of the country on a long-planned family vacation.”

Q. Is this your most important free-agent signing?

“When we got here, we were told there was no way this city could attract quality free agents. We were able to bring Joe Johnson in here. That was a seminal moment for this franchise. Danny, I think, is another seminal moment. He has five kids ages 5 to 15. It’s a big deal for him to take his kids and bring him to this city. . . . This was a terrific outcome for us and I know it’s going to be a terrific outcome for Danny.”

Q. Some teams have proprietary analytic systems. Is that something you could build here and bring in people experienced in that area?

“Yes.”

Q. Do you know what Danny’s plans are for the basketball staff?

“This is a great time for him to get to know the staff, evaluate the staff and make decisions going forward.”

Q. Are the other staff members on expiring contracts like Rick?

“Some are, some are not.”

Q. You lost in the first round and some wonder has this team gone as far as it can go. With new management in place, if you are looking to make a dramatic move, is this the time to do it?

“Danny and I never once spoke about the current team. That was frustrating because my sons wanted to know. That’s not what this is about. We didn’t talk about the current team. We talked about building an enduring championship organization going forward and what that would look like in terms of investment on our part, in terms of commitment in our part of our money and time and our heart. We talked about the new CBA and it’s impact on teams’ flexibility and ability to continue to build and change. We talked about the relationship between the business side and the basketball side and the importance that they pull in same direction. . . . He will go talk to Rick, Larry and the players and then come back with his thoughts on what we need to do going forward.

“Personally I replay every moment of that series against Boston, from the shot that Willie [Green] missed that he hits 63.7 percent of the time from that spot. From Josh [Smith] getting injured in that game, to Al [Horford] coming back, to Zaza [Pachulia] not being there to other things that I can’t talk about that happened but that others have made apologies for. That [series] was a killer for me. It makes the decision that much harder. If we’d gotten blown out by a very good Boston team in four games, it would be much easier answers to your questions.”

Q. I think a lot of people agree the injuries and the thing you can’t talk about affected that series. But do you also look beyond that and say, ‘Are we good enough to beat Miami?’

“I think it’s a lot more important how Rick and Larry and Danny and, probably most importantly, how the players think about that, Michael. Rick was very smart. He waited a couple weeks to do his exit interviews with the players we have under contract. To a man, they would say yes to that question. I think that’s important. It’s not the only thing, but it would not be good if they didn’t feel that way.

Q. In your opening remarks, you talked about hurdles you had to overcome to overcome to recruit Danny and the missteps you’ve made over the years. Danny mentioned your humility. What were some of those things you talked about?

A. “He asked me about all the things you guys have been writing about over the years. That was a really healthy conversation because it was an outsiders’ perspective asking about everything from the lawsuit to the failed sale. It was a time, for me, for reflection. It really was. To understand how someone in Danny’s position would look at it and be able to talk through, not just my side of the story, but the impact that I thought it had on our organization. I don’t need to go over them all with you. You guys know what those things would be.

“Danny did his homework. I think he read everything that had ever been written about this organization. He looked at interviews that had been conducted. He, rightfully so, had questions about all of that stuff. In some cases I think I had explanations for them, in other cases I think we made mistakes. The challenge is not to make those mistakes in the future.”

Q. If you hadn’t hired Danny, would Rick still be GM?

“Rick has been beyond fantastic throughout this and I’ve been transparent. Our plan was, he was ready to stay in that GM role for another season if that’s what it took for us to find the right person. I said to Rick this is not going to be easy finding the kind of person we are looking for. It may take a while. Rick was great about that.”

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

111 comments Add your comment

DawgNole

June 26th, 2012
3:24 pm

Najeh Davenpoop
June 26th, 2012
11:37 am

I am generally in favor of keeping Josh and finding a way to acquire a superior player so that Josh becomes a 2nd or 3rd option, if possible. But if not, there’s nobody on this team who is untouchable in a trade.
__________________

Given this frachise’s dismal history with player personnel, it’s probably more accurate–and safer–to say “there SHOULD BE nobody on this team who is untouchable in a trade.”

jsmoove

June 26th, 2012
3:27 pm

jsmoove

June 26th, 2012
3:28 pm

teedub

June 26th, 2012
3:30 pm

Looking forward to the draft now. Go Hawks!

TMACfan

June 26th, 2012
3:31 pm

Tony Wroten working out today!! Take a good look at him HAWKS!

DawgNole

June 26th, 2012
3:33 pm

Najeh Davenpoop
June 26th, 2012
11:54 am

^Never mind, I f-cked up.
________________________

Whoa!

Is this a first–other than those regular-season occasions when you refused to follow my advice and went ahead and picked the Hawks anyway?! (lol)

Rod from College Park

June 26th, 2012
3:33 pm

“Ra’mon and Astro,

Josh did put a pic of Ferry on his facebook page yesterday Said he was “Excited to welcome Danny Ferry to the Atlanta Hawks family”.

You would think by now that some of these bloggers might figure out that some regular bloggers might just happen to have a relationship with some of the players. SMH

ruben

June 26th, 2012
3:33 pm

the first issue that needs addressing is that its alright in the NBA to cheat the Atlanta Hawks because the local media hates them so much, that they will not defend this team. People who know basketball know that we are close.The local media wants Josh Smith gone, but he is the heart and soul of this team.

MsDee

June 26th, 2012
3:35 pm

If I was Ferry I would start off trying to put the right pieces to create a team who could potentially handle the NBA Champs Miami Heat’s esp since they are in our conference. I would 1st sit down with Josh and inform him on the creation of a team to handle the Heat by trying to get his ole buddy, Dwight, to join us. (This would also help out Ferry in the recruitment of Howard). 2nd, I would dangle JJ, Horford, Marvin and our #23 pick to Orlando for Dwight, Ryan, and their @19. (Both get to keep a 1st round pick) See what free agent SG we could get in place of JJ. (A starter SG would like to come with a squad like that) I would use the #19 to get a backup SF behind Ryan and our #43 for a combo guard PG/SG, maybe Tomas Satoransky. Dont know much about him but he is 6′7″ PG. Try and resign Ivan, Pargo and Willie Green.

I team would then look like this:

PG: Teague/Pargo
SG: Free agent/Willie/#43
SF: Ryan/ #19
PF: Josh/Ivan
C: Howard/Zaza

Astro Joe

June 26th, 2012
3:35 pm

Wow, so much of what Levinson is dicussing is not available for the most diehard follower of the Hawks to see. What a concept, basketball operations that requires a level of understanding that is beyond dutiful reading of various basketball websites.

Our ownership is growing up.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

“You would think by now that some of these bloggers might figure out that some regular bloggers might just happen to have a relationship with some of the players.”

Unfortunately they are still just side pieces.

Astro Joe

June 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

Ra’mon, FTPB, my bad, allof you Josh lovers look alike to me. :lol:

Sorry that I confused you with someone else.

DawgNole

June 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

doc
June 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

bibby cost us huge when it came to salary and that is what i was saying, money not picks. folks overlook he is still maybe the highest paid hawks in the 21st century for one year at $17 mil. i dont think jj has exceeded that and we rant on about how much over paid he was. it affected our ability to find other players to fill some much needed gaps and kept woody’s bench very short. then we signed him for 6 mil a season for three more years so sund wouldnt have to work.
___________________________

This is the kind of crap I was referencing in the previous blog when I cited the team’s dismal history with player personnel.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

“Is this a first–other than those regular-season occasions when you refused to follow my advice and went ahead and picked the Hawks anyway?! (lol)”

Haha nah, usually other people beat me to it before I can call myself out.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:41 pm

FTPB, High-Sider, Chinese and Thai are both Asian. So like I said, Tiger is 50% Asian and 25% Black.

MattP

June 26th, 2012
3:43 pm

Glad to see they gave him complete control.

Melvin

June 26th, 2012
3:44 pm

MC., Good stuff. Sounds like Ferry made to those owners step down from their high horse and confess their sins. The ASG had an eye opener when Ferry basically compared other organizations with the Hawks. They found out how far behind and off the championship path in order to have a championship organization. I’m not sure what Ferry can or can’t do but I like the way he’s starting things off.

MsDee

June 26th, 2012
3:44 pm

Free agent SG replacements could be Ray Allen, Shannon Brown, or Alonzo Gee and Steve Novak to fill in when needed as a 3pt specialist!

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:46 pm

“But Levenson said he believes the Hawks will benefit from an outsider’s fresh perspective because the owners are close to the current players.”

Did these clowns get close to their employees in their previous businesses to the point where they couldn’t make rational personnel decisions? How the hell did they become multimillionaires?

Astro Joe

June 26th, 2012
3:48 pm

Really, there are bloggers that have personal relationships with real players… and not just internet buddies? Wow. How cool is that? Do they get to hang out at the club with them? Do they get to bring home used game day jerseys? Ooh, how fun is that.

Sorry, I just had a high school flashback of some 16 YO talking about meeting Tree Rollins at Greenbriar Mall and how pathetic that sounded to me then… and now.

Greenbriar Mall 1980s/90s = Facebook Today

DawgNole

June 26th, 2012
3:48 pm

Najeh Davenpoop
June 26th, 2012
2:08 pm

Apparently the Lakers want to trade Metta World Peace for a late first-rounder. If they decide they want to keep this core together, would you trade the #23 and Marvin for MWP?
______________________

HELL NO! I can’t even believe those words were generated by your normally intelligent brain.

MWP is a serial criminal who belongs in jail. He’s poison–and absolutely the last character the Hawks need!

O'Brien

June 26th, 2012
3:48 pm

Thanks for the write-up MC. This was a much better interview compared to what we normally get from Gearon Jr.

Q: He was concerned about having autonomy if he took the Philadelphia job. Did you ensure him complete control of basketball operations and decisions?

A. “Yes.”.

I don’t know if Ferry will be good or bad, but either way, I hope the ASG leaves him alone.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:49 pm

““Our discussions were, ‘How are we going to build something long-term?’ My kids find this hard to believe because they keep asking me: ‘Well, what are we going to do about this player? What about that player?’ I tell them we haven’t had those conversations. There is a much, bigger long-term picture here that Danny and I spent all of our time focused on.””

This is a positive sign.

I was going to go through and respond to all the dumb sh-t in this interview like I usually do for Rick Sund Q and As, but there quite frankly isn’t that much dumb sh-t. At least they are mostly saying the right things. Now for the hard part — actually following through and getting results.

O'Brien

June 26th, 2012
3:50 pm

“We talked about one example—I don’t want to go into the [name of the] player—it was a player they thought they could take a chance on, an area of deficiency in his game they felt confident they could improve.

This player was undervalued because of that. That sort of ability to capture that kind of value is going to be really, really important with the new collective bargaining agreement.”.

Couldn’t this be said about Wroten? His jumper is broken, but he can defend, and pass, and get to the rim. Maybe the front office will believe they can help him improve his jumper.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:51 pm

“HELL NO! I can’t even believe those words were generated by your normally intelligent brain.

MWP is a serial criminal who belongs in jail. He’s poison–and absolutely the last character the Hawks need!”

Haha. I just wanted to see what people thought.

I would trade Marvin for MWP straight up, but I wouldn’t include the #23. MWP may be a serial criminal or whatever, but on a team full of nice guys, that may not be a bad thing.

Geemack

June 26th, 2012
3:51 pm

MC I have the utmost respect for you. You make an uninteresting team seem somewhat interesting..you deserve a raise. Hopefully Ferry understands Atlanta is a city that needs a superstar to interest the fans without that the Hawks are fighting a up hill battle.

O'Brien

June 26th, 2012
3:51 pm

FTPB,

Ra’mon,

O’B, if Josh agrees to an extension, would you be against trading Al to Charlotte for NEXT season’s first round pick.

If Josh agrees to an extension, then you can sign me up for trading Horford. However, I would prefer trading him for assets that could help us this season (not next).

Gwinnett Fred

June 26th, 2012
3:52 pm

My one piece of advice for this years draft. Eliminate all players that can’t shoot at least 75% from the line.

I got so damn tired of losing close games last year, most of which would have been wins if we could shoot a free throw.

O'Brien

June 26th, 2012
3:53 pm

Najeh,

I would pass on MWP for Marvin and the #23 pick. Even swap? Sure, because the Hawks need some attitude (imo). But They both have 2 years, $15 mil left, so we’re not saving any money, and it would cost us the #23 pick.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:54 pm

Also gotta admit I am somewhat impressed that Levenson knows Green’s shooting percentage from that spot on the floor. I guess they were able to scrounge up some money for a Synergy account.

DawgNole

June 26th, 2012
3:54 pm

High-sider
June 26th, 2012
2:44 pm

Actually, Tiger Woods “says” (claims) his ethnic/racial makeup (composition) is one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai, one-quarter (black) African-American, one-eighth Native American and one-eighth Dutch. I “say” (claim) Tiger Woods is (a) 100% bullsh-t sellout.
___________________

I say who cares what Tiger Woods says/claims about his ethnic/racial makeup. I also say he’s an arrogant, condescending jerk–has been for years.

BIG DOG

June 26th, 2012
3:55 pm

Who in the world would trade a 1st round pick for MWP, JUST DAM

BIG DOG IN THE HOUSE

Some thoughts

June 26th, 2012
3:56 pm

Unfortunately, he says they wont sell. Luckily, they are proven liars so hopefully the team will sell soon. If not, Danny is gone in two years. Other than that good hire for new owners.

Geemack

June 26th, 2012
3:57 pm

Astro Joe

What you know about Greenbriar in the 80’s/90’s? LOL!

Najeh Davenpoop

June 26th, 2012
3:57 pm

As always, good stuff MC.

BIG DOG

June 26th, 2012
3:58 pm

Lakers always trying rob somebody.

BIG DOG IN THE HOUSE

O'Brien

June 26th, 2012
4:00 pm

”If we’d gotten blown out by a very good Boston team in four games, it would be much easier answers to your questions.”.

I disagree. – When we lost by a record 100 points combined to Orlando 2 years ago in the playoffs, the only change made was to replace Woody with LD.

“He wanted commitments from us to increase our investments in our facilities, in our sports medicine and science, in analytics and, most importantly, in our player development. We said yes, yes and yes.”.

Maybe Jeff would have gotten more PT if Ferry was here 2 years ago :smile:

Astro Joe

June 26th, 2012
4:00 pm

I wonder if he was talking about Parker, who had ZERO shooting ability when he entered the league. Of course, the part I liked most about the interview was considering the psychology of a player. The Hawks can’t keep drafting players who have faulty pilot lights.

Speaking of faulty pilot lights… if Presti knew that Green had a heart defect, I sure do hope that he informed Jeff Green. If not, he should be suspended indefinitely. Stern isn;t so bad, had something like that happened in the NFL, Goodell would have… never mind, this is a Hawks blog.

BIG DOG

June 26th, 2012
4:02 pm

Andre Drummond will be a bust, SMH

Man Andre will be a star in the league.

FOSHO WOULD LOOK REAL GOOD IN HAWKS UNIFORM

BIG DOG IN THE HOUSE

Danny

June 26th, 2012
4:03 pm

Josh and Marvin for Martin/Scola and one or two first rounders?

Thoughts?

BIG DOG

June 26th, 2012
4:05 pm

Artman

June 26th, 2012
4:06 pm

I have to admit I am surprised by all this. Are they really intending to let Ferry have complete control of basketball operations? He is saying all the right things about a long-term building a successful basketball organization rather than just another mouthpiece.

They appear to want to do the thing necessary to build a quality organization. I still maintain some skepticism and will go with the wait and see if they follow through. But if what he says is true then they finally have taken the one step they needed to possibly be successful at this.

Astro Joe

June 26th, 2012
4:07 pm

Geemack, I’m old. Gold Mine old. Theater in the basement old. Peppermint Records old. I’m old.

Sage of Bluesland

June 26th, 2012
4:08 pm

Is he feeling more humble about ruining hockey in Atlanta forever?

Same hockey GM for a decade, but 3 for the Hawks. Pure genius.

mountain_jim

June 26th, 2012
4:08 pm

Great, most informative interview with a Hawks owner in forever, MC.

thanks. :)

chuckw/deadjournalist

June 26th, 2012
4:13 pm

Reading this – and Ferry’s interview – make it hard for me to not be excited. I want to be; but I can’t allow myself until time shows that all of these things are coming to fruition.

Najeh – I think you mentioned about how this owners could be millionaires based on personal relationships. I’m not sure this group looked at this through the same lens as a regular business. Maybe this was more of a hobby or one of those “dream-come-true” deals for them. Maybe they thought they’d buy the team low, enjoy the ride, and then sell the team when they were a playoff contendor. Or maybe they’re other interests took a hit with the economic downtown, so now they are ready to get serious about this NBA thing.

Whatever it took, I hope they are serious and actually follow-though on the commitments they’ve made to Ferry, and by extension, they’re core fan-base.

I’m curious to see what Ferry will do in the next few months and the next few years.

Ferry’s hiring could be similar to what the Braves did with Schuerholz and what the Falcons did with Dimitroff. They both brought in voices from winning organizations (yes, kids, the Royals were a great organization years) to help steward their own team. There are worse things.

doc

June 26th, 2012
4:15 pm

najeh i would think that might have come from a coach saying it to cover why he had taken the shot.

Kane337

June 26th, 2012
4:15 pm

Screw the Atlanta Spirit Group. I wish nothing good for them. However, go Hawks. RIP Thrashers.

gLENN

June 26th, 2012
4:15 pm

“It will be interesting to see what direction he goes,” Levenson said.

Wow !!!! Looks like he’s been given the keys .

Grandad

June 26th, 2012
4:18 pm

Najeh

” FTPB, High-Sider,
Chinese and Thai are both Asian.
So like I said, Tiger is 50% Asian and 25% Black ”

I`m glad you enlightened me.
I been studyin` my `rithmatic and Geography
fer an hour tryin` to figure what I missed on that one.

Najeh
how can they decipher 1% native American [Indian] ?