Having hired Danny Ferry, the Hawks must be taken seriously

Words not often heard: An impressive Hawks hire. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Four words not often heard: An impressive Hawks hire. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Three cheers for the Atlanta Hawks, and not just puny “hip, hips,” either. Make these full-throated “hoorays.” A franchise that has chosen wrong so often has finally done it right. It has hired a basketball man of impeccable pedigree and plans to get out of his way.

Danny Ferry has done two tours with the San Antonio Spurs, the gold standard of NBA organizations, and in between he was general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played for the NBA title in 2007 and won 66 games in 2008-2009. That Ferry has chosen to become GM of the Hawks says he’s sold on an organization that has, to be frank, been the toughest of sells.

Bruce Levenson, one of the Hawks’ many owners, introduced Ferry on Monday by saying, “For every question we asked Danny, he asked 10 of us.” That was a polite way of noting the interviewee was actually the interviewer. At issue wasn’t why the Hawks should hire him — that much was apparent — but why he should deign to work for these owners.

Had Ferry remained unsold on these owners, he’d have taken the Philadelphia job (he’d also had an audience there) or stayed in San Antonio. Of Levenson, Ferry said: “I was struck by his humble approach to the past, especially for a team that has done well.”

Let the record reflect that, of the first thousand adjectives that might attach themselves to Levenson, “humble” isn’t among them. But this ownership just managed to convince a pragmatic man that it’s serious about changing, serious about winning in a way it hasn’t been to date. (Sure enough, Levenson went so far as to acknowledge “missteps” — also a departure.)

Know this about Ferry: He left Cleveland after five good-to-excellent years — yes, having the world’s best player under contract had something to do with it — because he and owner Dan Gilbert no longer shared a vision. In the willingness to do whatever it took to keep LeBron James, Gilbert fired coach Mike Brown. Ferry, whose contract was expiring, chose to walk away. “We were on different pages,” Ferry said, “and I think I’ve given you what I’ll give you [as rationale].”

Burned once, such a man would be doubly sure to ask tens if not hundreds of questions of any prospective employers. “I was in a good spot where I was,” Ferry said. “I would not have made this decision if I didn’t think this was a good opportunity and a good challenge.”

Danny Ferry is the son of Bob Ferry, who in 1959 was the first-round pick of the Hawks, then based in St. Louis, and who would become GM of the Baltimore/Washington Bullets. Danny Ferry had such a golden career as a player — national champ in high school, three Final Fours in college, an NBA crown with the Spurs in 2003 — that if you ask, “Who’s the best coach you ever had?,” he can tick off four Hall of Famers as candidates: Morgan Wootten of DeMatha Catholic, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Lenny Wilkens of Cleveland and Gregg Popovich of the Spurs.

And Danny Ferry, basketball lifer, didn’t come here to rubber-stamp the whims of Levenson and the Gearons. “I’m allowed to do everything,” he said, responding to a question about having the Hawks rely more on statistical analysis. “If we take a common-sense approach, I’m very confident the answer [from ownership] is going to be yes.”

There will be time to discuss deeper issues — the state of the Hawks’ Core Four, the status of lame-duck coach Larry Drew, the enduring question of what to do with Josh Smith — in the days ahead, but for now it’s enough to know that the new GM believes he’s inheriting some “really good players” and that he’s committed to “building something even stronger from what’s already there.”

If you’re looking for a Ferry credo, this will do: “We want to be a value-based franchise.”

If you’re seeking an assurance that these owners, who have spent nearly a decade alienating their constituency, are serious about changing, know that Ferry asked Levenson, “Are you willing to do this the right way?” — and was satisfied with the answer.

These owners have gone from wanting to dump the Hawks from wanting to keep them and run them the way the Spurs have been run. Said Ferry: “I would not have come here if I thought [the Hawks being sold] was an issue. Bruce and I were just saying we’d hoped we’d both still be here 12 years from now.”

There was a time — like, say, last week — when the thought of 12 more years of these Hawks under these owners would have induced howls of anguish. But now these owners have seen fit to hire Danny Ferry to run their team, and you have to admit: That’s one heck of a restart.

By Mark Bradley

175 comments Add your comment

Spyro

June 25th, 2012
4:15 pm

I’m still not sold on Ferry. He couldn’t get the right pieces around LeBron in 6 years. Maybe he’ll be better with a different project, though. Who knows.

Spyro

June 25th, 2012
4:16 pm

Wait, first? Yay!

Tim Tebow's Tears

June 25th, 2012
4:23 pm

Interesting. I’m listening..

NCBravesFan

June 25th, 2012
4:28 pm

Spyro – perhaps the issue in Cleveland is that LBJ was not the player he is today rather than the supporting cast Ferry provided. Either way, it will be interesting to see how this offseason plays with Ferry at the helm.

Hankie Aron

June 25th, 2012
4:28 pm

Mark- Counting 2 from you and 1 so far from Schultzie. that’s 3 columns today about the Hawks. This must be a good thing right?

Nugget

June 25th, 2012
4:30 pm

I like the move. It shows me the Hawks are serious about winning

Blow It Up

June 25th, 2012
4:31 pm

Sorry, but we still suck and thanks to a couple of awesome contracts we’re looking at a first- or second-round playoff exit every year for the foreseeable future. I wish we could start fresh even if it meant having a couple 32-win seasons rather than being mired in mediocrity (and predictability) year in and year out.

Sage of Bluesland

June 25th, 2012
4:35 pm

It’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, folks. Our esteemed writer also used to laud the incompetent buffoon Pete Babcock, for YEARS, lest anyone forget.

Stop subsidizing this incompetence–as that is all it is with this ownership group.

Just The Facts

June 25th, 2012
4:43 pm

I did not think the ASG was capable of this type move. I’m surprised & excited. Be interesting to what DF’s plans are after he gets in there. Wish him well.

juvenal

June 25th, 2012
4:45 pm

is he bringing back the landlord?

BubbaDaBaller

June 25th, 2012
4:47 pm

As always, excellence is conferred on a “name” before results are tendered (ie Mark Texiera}. I would think optimism towards the next 2 seasons would be appropriate, he’ll need time to apply his measure. The part about the ASG giving him the correct answers to his questions is laughable…they’ve lied to everyone here in the ATL and the Commish of the NBA at one point…now they can be trusted?

Reggie

June 25th, 2012
4:48 pm

Good move….its a step in a different direction so its a good move.

Harry Hawk

June 25th, 2012
4:50 pm

This team can get better, but Ferry will have to move or Josh or Al in order to do it. I think we’re stuck with Joe for the foreseeable future. Can we amnesty Marvin? Probably not. I’ll give Ferry a chance, but I wish he had been able to pick his own coach.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 25th, 2012
4:52 pm

Ferry is the best GM this team has had in 17 years. With that said, this article makes the same mistake that Atlanta sports fans make when evaluating the Falcons. Just because the people in charge look the part doesn’t mean they deserve to be taken seriously.

The Hawks should be taken seriously only when Ferry reconstructs this team into a championship contender, just like the Falcons should be taken seriously only when they start winning playoff games. Until then, they are both pretenders. Ferry’s pedigree doesn’t mean anything until it translates into results.

Ron

June 25th, 2012
4:56 pm

The people who aren’t sold on Ferry apparently wanted Sund to remain GM.

They are scared of change.

He comes from a winning prganization, has experience, built a team that got to the Finals.

What’s not to like? ;)

GT

June 25th, 2012
4:57 pm

An adult running the show like the Braves and the Falcons.

Runner-

June 25th, 2012
4:58 pm

Still not gonna believe a word these owners say, especially that last bit. By helping convince the fans they’re here to stay is just a way of improving their reputation so the fans don’t bomb on them in the next few years while they put this franchise up for sale

TomB

June 25th, 2012
5:00 pm

Yea, I’m still in shock. It like having new ownership in a way; kinda like when Ted Turner got out of the dugout and let someone else run the show. Hopefully this works out this time.

DF

June 25th, 2012
5:02 pm

The Decision II: I’m taking my limited talents to the Southeast. I will never promise you one, two, three, four, five or six championships.

Go Dookies!

DogTheMan

June 25th, 2012
5:06 pm

I am not totally sold. He lost valuable role players in Cleveland and did not get equal replacements. We do not have the talent to compete in crunch time and we do not have a coach that free agents want to come and play for. So we may need to blow the hwole thing up and start over again. let’s see what happens!!

rickjames

June 25th, 2012
5:07 pm

dr mr ferry…joe johnson to toronto…atlanta gets jose caldaron #6 pick, major cap relief… toronto gets wing vet that they covet..everyone’s happy:) well,,,..toronto;s happy until the playoffs come around….iso/dribble-out-the-clock-joe….al horford to charlotte for #2 pick, cash, second rd pick and throw-in bench player….

beone

June 25th, 2012
5:08 pm

Ok, now there is a chance – a chance – that things will improve. Not a certainty but a reasonably good bet. So I’m with the program for now. I agree with Najeh, let’s give our support and wait for the results to provide evidence of improvement. Anytime, there is a change like this, those in charge will try to get a quick win. That buys confidence and support. Let’s hope it starts this week with the draft.

rickjames

June 25th, 2012
5:08 pm

should be “dear” mr ferry :)

Joey

June 25th, 2012
5:14 pm

Great hire, Hawks! Good start. Good to see Najeh on board.

Bob in SF

June 25th, 2012
5:17 pm

Mark, any chance at all they use their amnesty on Joe Johnson?

Mash

June 25th, 2012
5:20 pm

I’m not as smitten with Ferry as you appear to be, Mark. At the very least, we can all agree he’s a step up from Rick Sund. But, it’s worth noting that Ferry’s failure to surround LeBron with the right teammates largely led to James’ decision to head to south beach in the first place.

With all due respect to Danny’s judgment on the ASG, I think Hawks fans are going to have to see years of sustained competence before we trust this ownership group. We’re talking about a group of owners that thought it a good idea to re-sign a coach one month BEFORE signing a much heralded new general manager. If a new GM search was underway, what possible reason was there to rush to sign a coach before the GM was in place? It doesn’t make any sense.

Yet again the whole situation reeks of a lack of foresight from this ownership group.

donte080

June 25th, 2012
5:22 pm

spyro, it took James two seasons at his best ever to win in Miami with two NBA all-stars (one of which is a future HOF) playing beside him, to beat the young raw upstart OKC team….they’re lucky they faced them when they did.. And even then, this Miami team would not have beaten the 2007 Spurs team Cleveland faced (Miami wouldn’t have beaten the Kobe-led Lakers championship teams either)

Athenzdawg

June 25th, 2012
5:22 pm

now please pick Melo. We need a center!!!!!!!!!! Trade everyone cept Al, and Teague if you have to. Just get a freaking presence that can score inside and get the ball away from Iso Joe.

Ignition

June 25th, 2012
5:23 pm

If he can find a way to get rid of Joe, he should be crowned King of Atlanta …..

donte080

June 25th, 2012
5:25 pm

Najeh, you don’t think the falcons deserve to be taken seriously?

How long you been a Falcons fan?

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2012
5:26 pm

To use the amnesty option on Joe Johnson, the Hawks would have to pay him $80 million not to play. Can’t see that happening.

SSIgator

June 25th, 2012
5:27 pm

“Having hired Danny Ferry, the Hawks must be taken seriously”

Why? That is like saying “Having hired Mark Richt, the Dwags must be taken seriously”

The AJC writers – providing comic relief for their readers, whether or not they mean to.

Skeezix

June 25th, 2012
5:33 pm

I am a NCAA BB fan, not a huge NBA fan, but I like the decision to bring in Ferry to get the ship headed in the right direction.

Rob

June 25th, 2012
5:39 pm

If theres one thing im happy about, its that Rick Sund is no longer the GM. I have to think that us Hawks fans would punch a hole in a wall if they just let him continue to babysit this roster…

Ted Striker

June 25th, 2012
5:45 pm

I might be the only person on this forum who hasn’t knocked the Hawks ownership.

Simple reason….It’s hard to be a franchise owner and it’s especially difficult to do that when you’re part of a group of individuals who may or may not share your vision.

It’s easy to second guess someone when you have no personal stake in a team. No human capital, no financial investment. I call anyone who lambasts the spirit group out as a wimp until they step up to the plate and make ASG an offer.

Pool your pennies and make them an offer for this team. Otherwise show up for the games, don’t show up for the games. Nobody cares if you like ASG or not. Least of all ASG. Nor me.

p.s. Good hire.

Mike

June 25th, 2012
5:47 pm

Yeah, Amnesty on JJ is a bad idea for right now, but here is the deal, I believe since DF has fully control (confirmed if he has that) and that report from Sam Arick(sp?) is true. I think that this team is going to be shaken up and everybody will be playing and coaching for their jobs next year.

Rickster

June 25th, 2012
5:52 pm

The Hawks may need to be taken seriously… but their owners sure shouldn’t.

day old fries

June 25th, 2012
5:56 pm

A great day.

Mike

June 25th, 2012
6:03 pm

You know, I have a better question. Who is Ferry is going to bring with him to Atlanta for scouting and front-office matters? I am thinking he might be taken some of the SA stuff, maybe.

[...] Having hired Danny Ferry, the Hawks must be taken seriously [...]

kevkat

June 25th, 2012
6:10 pm

Nothing against the hire but let’s face it…the guy has nothing to work with and if he can somehow construct a championship quality team immediately with what he has will be nothing short of a miracle.

This ship was torpedoed with the JJ contract. Maybe he can start the repairs but I don’t see it being sea worthy for awhile.

donte080

June 25th, 2012
6:13 pm

Nothing to work with? …..Charlotte has nothing to work with, nor does Washington, but the Hawks are a perennial playoff team…that’s crazy talk!

OK

June 25th, 2012
6:14 pm

This actually shows that they are committed to the team and not themselves. You purchase a team to own the team. Not run it. It took them 4 years to do what Blank as done after he sent them the blue print. Purchase a team, hire great people, and move out of the way. It wasn’t Danny’s fault Lebron had performance anxiety in the fourth quarter. Good hire ASG. Let’s go get ‘em…. It would be great if the Hawks won a championship next year.

kevkat

June 25th, 2012
6:20 pm

donte080

June 25th, 2012
6:13 pm

Nothing to work with? …..Charlotte has nothing to work with, nor does Washington, but the Hawks are a perennial playoff team…that’s crazy talk

You my friend have the same mindset of the owners..you are satisfied with being a perennial playoff team? Read the whole comment..he does not have anything of championship quality..but it figures some will always be satisfied with just getting there…wow

Glsjunior

June 25th, 2012
6:22 pm

Smoove for Ibaka and filler

donte080

June 25th, 2012
6:27 pm

You couldn’t be more wrong. Never said I was satisfied, I’m not and expect to see some changes, where I disagreed strongly was your comment that Ferry has nothing to work with….

you can’t grasp the difference?

beone

June 25th, 2012
6:42 pm

Mike, what report from Sam Arick (sp?) are you referring to? Thx.

Joseph Allen McWhorter

June 25th, 2012
6:48 pm

A great hire!! I mean, hey, this man might not build a team that will win the NBA title in the summer of 2013, but all I am asking for is just to put together a team that could very well still be playing in late May and early June. The Hawks are always on vacation right about then. Lol!! I mean, just make things interesting and exciting Danny.

tjhook

June 25th, 2012
6:50 pm

Danny Ferry should bring in a veteran point guard (Andre Miller) and allow Larry Drew a full assembly of veteran starters. Teague is not a strong enough playmaker to curb our veteran bad habits. Only a veteran player can do this. Drew played veterans because their learning curve was small. Don’t trust him to manage newer players. Get him a veteran point guard who can start. If they win, HOORAY!! If not, gut the team after the season. But the Hawks need an on-court leader.

dc74

June 25th, 2012
6:51 pm

Another Atlanta team that must be taken seriously..that’s so funny