He is the right guy if for no other reason than he is a new guy.
“I will be in complete control of the team,” Alex Meruelo said.
And really, does anything else matter right now?
Because if Alex Meruelo is in charge, it means Bruce Levenson isn’t in charge. It means Michael Gearon Jr. isn’t in charge. It means Ed Peskowitz, Rutherford Seydel, the ghost of Steve Belkin, Topo Gigio and anybody else who ever was among the blur of Atlanta Spirit partners isn’t in charge.
They don’t call the shots any more.
Say goodbye to exploding clown shoes.
So ends the rule of the Atlanta Spirit. It’s too late to save the NHL franchise that the former ownership
group destroyed, lied about and ultimately sold off to Winnipeg. It’s too late to save us from the absurdity of owner-vs-owner lawsuits and daily dysfunction we witnessed for most of roughly seven years — why does it seem like 27? — in the front office. But we’ll take it today because it’s better than waiting until tomorrow.
If the Atlanta Spirit wasn’t the worst ownership in the history of professional sports, it at least is in the argument. No sports town wants to be in that argument.
I don’t know a thing about Alex Meruelo, other than what I Google and read. Pizza restaurants. Construction. A casino. A television station. Dandy.
The guy could have made his fortune selling second-hand nuclear reactors and I’d be cool with it. Alex Meruelo suddenly emerging the top of Atlanta Hawks’ food chain is like popping a few extra strength Tylenol, knowing the headache is bound to get better.
I know. He’s not from here. He doesn’t live here. He never has owned a sports team before. He comes with no guarantees.
Sorry, there is no such thing as guaranteed perfect owners, any more than there are guaranteed perfect general managers, coaches and point guards.
For all we know, Meruelo could be another Levenson (get down on your knees and pray no). Or he could be another Arthur Blank (get down on your knees and pray yes).
But wouldn’t you rather take the unknown vs. the known?
Meruelo, who will be introduced at a 2 p.m. news conference Monday at Philips Arena, says he will own more than 50 percent of the Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights. That’s all we need to know right now. Logic says Levenson, Gearon and/or Peskowitz will remain as minority partners because the rest of the money has to come from somewhere. But when one man owns controlling interest, it means one votes and one man decides.
Know this: When all of the Hawks’ owners get together in a room, only one of them will have had nothing to do with the Joe Johnson contract. It’s the one now in charge.
The NBA is in a lockout. I kind of like that. It gives Meruelo a chance to assess the Hawks, assess Rick Sund, assess Larry Drew, assess the franchise as both a business and a potential competitor for an NBA championship. There should be no rushed decisions here.
Meruelo said: “I want to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta.”
Yes, this is standard speak from the new owner talking points manual. Everybody involved with the Spirit said they wanted to win championships, too. It just doesn’t necessarily mean they were equipped to.
Maybe the new guy will know what he’s doing. He can’t possibly know less.
By Jeff Schultz