The Hawks have hired a good basketball man. They might even have hired the absolute right man. But the issue here won’t be whether Danny Ferry knows his business — obviously he does — but whether his new bosses will allow him to conduct that business as he sees fit.
As we know, this ownership hasn’t always acceded to the recommendations of its general manager. Billy Knight wanted to fire Mike Woodson as coach at the 2008 All-Star break, and the owners said no. (Given the unerring view of hindsight, they were probably right.) Knight quit as GM three months later. It is widely believed that Rick Sund, Knight’s successor, recommended that the Hawks hire Dwane Casey to replace the fired-for-real Woodson in June 2010, only to see the owners promote assistant coach Larry Drew instead.
With Ferry, control isn’t just a talking point. It’s a deal-breaker. He left the Cavaliers in 2010 because owner Dan Gilbert fired coach Mike Brown, a move Ferry didn’t endorse. (The big noise in Cleveland that summer was whether LeBron James would stay. Can’t remember if he did or not.) Ferry spoke with the 76ers about their GM opening this month, but his interest apparently cooled when it became clear coach Doug Collins — who’s a bit of a controller himself — would retain some say over basketball matters.
So now Ferry is coming to work for the Hawks instead, and good for them. He’s a basketball lifer — his dad Bob was a player (originally drafted by the St. Louis Hawks, you should know) and later a GM — who played under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and Gregg Popovich with San Antonio. Ferry has done two tours in the Spurs’ organization, which is the best there is, and according to Hawks insiders both Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford rave about him.
There’s nothing not to like about Ferry. Heck, let’s call this what it is: The best hire these owners have ever made. But it will only succeed if these owners restrain themselves, and restraint hasn’t been their long suit. They’ve talked too much, said the wrong things and — speaking particularly of the Michael Gearons Sr. and Jr. — have shown over time the penchant for overrating their players badly.
In Ferry they might just have found the antidote for all that. He’s going to command respect in a way the caretaker Rick Sund never quite did, and it’s much easier to step into the background if you’re sure the man in titular charge is in actual charge.
There’ll be more a bit later — sorry to threaten you — after Ferry’s introductory briefing (1 p.m. at Philips Arena), but I have to say I’m more encouraged I’ve been about the Hawks than at any time since they hired Lenny Wilkens. And that, if you’ve forgotten, was on Memorial Day 1993.
By Mark Bradley