Is there a chance Ferry keeps his job? (Yes, but … )

Mike Budenholzer: Coach and GM, for now. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Mike Budenholzer: Coach and GM, for now. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Mike Budenholzer: Coach and GM, for now. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Mike Budenholzer: Coach and GM, for now. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

After throwing off a week’s cloak of silence/inaction surely imposed on him by his ham-handed employers, Danny Ferry has made a series of smart moves. On Sept. 12, he released a longer statement that sounded heartfelt in its remorse, as opposed to that three-paragraph burst released by the Atlanta Hawks at 7:07 a.m. three days earlier. He also announced he was taking a leave of absence, which gave a heated matter time to breathe if not cool.

Ferry has since apologized to many offended parties, and both Luol Deng, about whom the regrettable words were read/said, and Magic Johnson, who’d tweeted that Ferry should step down as general manager, have expressed their forgiveness. As noted by esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore, many other NBA voices sound willing to write off Ferry’s characterization of Deng as a mistake.

Three weeks ago, there seemed little chance that Ferry could remain the Hawks’ general manager. With time and distance and Ferry’s aggressive attempts at fence-mending — apparently he flew to Los Angeles to speak with Johnson — we can shorten those odds. I’d say he has a 15 percent chance of keeping his job.

The complicating factor — with these Hawks, there are always complications — is that Bruce Levenson’s stake in the team is being sold in light of his unearthed email. According to Mayor Kasim Reed, Levenson’s D.C.-based partners Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman are also selling. Levenson’s share alone wouldn’t have amounted to majority control. The three shares together will.

Meaning: The Hawks are about to get a new controlling owner, and if you’ve just spent millions to buy a majority share in an NBA team, do you really want your general manager to be a guy who’s known, fairly or unfairly, for saying/reading the words: “He’s got some African in him”?

Probably not. But maybe Ferry could persuade the new owner, same as he persuaded Deng and Johnson. That’s provided the new owner affords that chance. The sale could be a long time coming. (You’ll recall that L.A. businessman Alex Meruelo tried to buy the team in 2011 — the Hawks even staged a meet-Meruelo press conference at Philips Arena — and that fell through. Same ol’ Hawks.)

The team held its media day Monday, and the topic was — big shock — Danny Ferry. Coach Mike Budenholzer is acting as GM while Ferry’s out, but that can’t last forever. Assuming the Hawks aren’t sold in the next couple of months, the organization, such as it is, will have to decide whether to take Ferry back, and the Atlanta-based segment of ownership headed by Michael Gearon Jr. has already declared that it wants Ferry gone.

But wait. Steve Koonin, the new and thus far unimpressive CEO, is considered a Levenson man and therefore an enemy of the Gearon camp. Would he give the Gearon side what it wants, or would he stand by Ferry, who was Levenson’s prize hire? (Even if the Hawks’ disjointed PR response did Ferry no favors, it’s worth noting that they haven’t fired him.)

A month ago, Ferry was regarded as the best thing the Hawks had going for them. He’d remade the team in the Spurs’ image and hired Budenholzer, who could be the NBA’s next great coach. He’d built a competitive team without overspending to do it, and he’d positioned the Hawks to have the financial wherewithal to land any big-name free agent at any time. To date they hadn’t, and that was before the franchise had to defend itself against charges of racism.

After the AJC’s Vivlamore obtained a tape of the infamous phone call, Carmelo Anthony — who was discussed as a potential target in free agency before the talk turned to Deng — told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: “Nobody would want to go there now. At the end of the day … it puts Atlanta back even further, from that standpoint.”

At the end of the day, that’s still where we are. For as much as Ferry can say he’s sorry and as much as people insist they believe him, it will be very hard for him to remain in a job that requires him to attract free agents. I’m not discounting Ferry’s powers of persuasion — indeed, that’s why I say he has a 15 percent chance, as opposed to zero — but his task remains daunting.

Reader Comments 1

41 comments
KeyserSoze
KeyserSoze

Mark:

I`ve been a Hawk fan since ATL took Skip Harlicka as their 1st pick in `68.

Even then I said "Skip who?"

Danny Ferry is the best GM in ATL Hawk history as far as I`m concerned.

I do not think his "mistake" rises to the level of termination.

Melo would never have come here anyway. With time - wounds will heal.

$ will determine who signs here, not whomever holds the position of GM.

Plus, the Winning Culture established by DF & Coach Bud will persuade more folk than

whether or not Danny stays or goes.

Having said all that:

Gearon must Go ! ... He will be the last of the true malignant curse upon this franchise.  

Ofellia
Ofellia

I forgive him, most NBA free agents will as well.

Calel
Calel

As a black man and a Hawks fan (albeit fair weather, but I still count) I DEMAND STEVE KOONIN CHANGE HIS NAME!! 

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

Yes Ferry made a mistake as he is first to admit. Don't lose sight however that it was used as a pawn in the ongoing dysfunction among the owners particularly Gearon and Levenson. The ownership group has been the worst in all pro sports for years and the dysfunction and in fighting already resulted in the firesale of the Thrashers. The silver lining in this PR disaster is that this city will get new ownership. I wondered when he took the job, why Ferry would ever want to work for this ownership group. I could never have imagined he would be put in the middle of their endless infighting. The sale of the team cant come fast enough and the sad reality is sports franchises as a whole have increased in value so those that have permanentlty damaged the franchise will walk away with profits. In fact had the owners held on to the Thrashers another year or two they would have made significantly more money on the sale, far beyond whatever losses they would have incurred running the team given what NHL team are now selling for. Lets hope 100% of the team is sold that Gearon is also out.

The-Truth
The-Truth

So now it seems "the Gearon camp" isn't done causing havoc within the Hawks organization. As if it wasn't enough to carry-out a coup from within without regard to the collateral damage that's killing the brand, the team and the city's image, they are now targeting more. Enlisting "cronies" to do more dirty work on these blogs by criticizing Koonin. I say Koonin has been the one bright-spot in the middle of the storm created initially by Gearon himself. Anyone who would support this guy after what he pull is either overly gullible, extremely naive, stupid or has an agenda. I say the latter because I'm reading similar themes from blog to blog. Hired as the CEO less than 6 mos ago, what did he do so offensive?

Did he assist Levenson with his offensive memo?

Did he write the scouting report read by Danny?

Was he even in that meeting? 

Did he help plot the Coup?

Did he assisted with the tape recording?

If he was caught with anything, it was been at the wrong place (being CEO) at the wrong time. As of now, Koonin legacy with the Hawks has been "damage control" something that is desperately needed right now. Mainly to stabilized the ship until new ownership takes over. Why would anyone criticize him in the middle of this mess is beyond me. 

To those Gearon's sympthizers and apologists: If you wondered what would this Hawks organization would look like being run by Gearon Inc, just look at it now. What you see now, is what you would get. Ego-tripping, back-stabbing, lies and deception while he campaigns for diversity using Nigue as his pawn.         

GongShow
GongShow

It's so hard to make a judgement call on things like this. If the team players like him, forgive him, want him then keep him. I think there are racists and then there are those that just say stupid things and are not racist. I think it would be hard to be in a profession where the majority is non-white (or visa versa) and be the leader and try to get people to believe in you and still continue to be racist. Owners can get away with that but coaches and people that are involved with players lives and families I just don't believe so. I would keep him if the players want him.

slydawg
slydawg

He should and needs to be fired. Period. And for the record, I feel no ill will towards Ferry and his many supporters. He spoke his mind and just got caught doing. But this isn't 1814. You can't "appear" to be racist and laugh it off. The Hawks are hoping football season makes this all go away. Good luck come Spring and Summer.

seminoleking
seminoleking

this is the thing. a lot of people dont like what gearon did, but gearon was RIGHT. i heard rumors of free agents not wanting to come to the hawks BEFORE the levenson and ferry incidents, because of a perception of racism coming from the hawks front office ( ferry). i heard this months BEFORE all this came to light. so, there is no chance in hell the hawks will ever land a free agent with ferry running the show. he has to go and a new owner chosen carefully. 40 years of hawk misery and it will continue if the status quo is kept going. koonin needs to go also.....the hawks are a mess and new owner might not be able to right the ship unless the new owner is able to buy out EVERYBODY, including kooning and start fresh......i would keep coach bud though.....

Mr_Ected
Mr_Ected

1.  If Magic Johnson buys the team, he'd be hard-pressed to fire DF after forgiving him.

2.  If Team Gearon somehow steers this machine in the direction they favor, Danny Ferry will be job hunting in short order.

3.  If DF stays put, then free agents will continue to avoid Atlanta like the plague, while never publicly announcing their reasons for doing so.  That, more than anything, is why DF must go.  What he said pales in comparison to the collateral damage he has and will inflict on the team.

MannyThinks
MannyThinks

Can a new 50.1% owner squeeze out the rest of the old 7 dwarfs of Hawks ownership? If not, why would you expect anything to be different with or without Ferry? I understand that people are upset with Ferry, but he isn’t the source of most of the problems on or off the court.


Carmelo Anthony wasn’t coming here if they had sent him a blank cashier’s check. The last time a big name unrestricted free agent came to the Hawks might be the summer of 1996 when they signed Mutombo. That is a long string of free agent futility.


The ASG the most dysfunctional set of rich guys who have bumbled their way through Atlanta Sports ownership? As a group, it started with the mess over getting Joe Johnson from Phoenix and has continued ever since. They could not keep a hockey team. They could not sell the Hawks properly to the California Pizza guy. They seems to be split on making good basketball decisions even after the hockey team is no longer around to split their attention.


Maybe they need to manage some WWE wrestlers. But wait, Vince McMahon wouldn’t want them. Why would he let them destroy his successful business.

moboman
moboman

The players have forgiven, those around the league, Deng, Magic, Duncan, etc, have all given Ferry the benefit of the doubt.  Not your job to influence local sentiment MB.  He did a stupid thing in what he chose to read from that report.  Who among us has never done anything stupid?  Doesn't make him a racist.  The man has spent his entire life in a line of work dominated by African Americans, a minority in his own chosen field.  Let those with whom he has to work and deal with, those who know him better than any of us, decide his fate.  

JackClemens
JackClemens

Budenholzer needs to stay. That Ferry dumped the seemingly immovable Joe Johnson albatross seemed a miracle and may be his next greatest gift to the franchise after Coach Bud. Whether Ferry goes or stays, the coach needs to remain and all the ASG, especially the devious manure-stirring Gearon, need to go with Levenson. If Silver has to step in, that last thing needs to happen. If any remnant of ASG remains, the cancer remains and we remain doomed.

Marmoset
Marmoset

AtL need to clean house and get rid of all these racists running the team--i'm tired of all this---they need to get nique and kasim to find some new minority owners who will get the top players to atl

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Mark, thanks for being honest enough to state that Koonin has not been impressive thus far. I totally agree. He clearly does not have the right experience to handle a conflict like the one we just experienced.

phoenixsoul84
phoenixsoul84

Ohh Bradley, can't you chill with the "same ol' Hawks" crap?  At least we go out and compete every year, which is more than I can say for the other sports teams in GA.  This Ferry stuff is a minor setback that won't even be news once the reg. season starts.  In terms of talent on both sides of the floor, this is the deepest Hawks team I've seen in a while.

Wilbo
Wilbo

The whole thing is such a silly mess, and I believe just par for the course for an Atlanta professional sports team --- a lot of goofy drama centered around something other than winning.


The city needs a complete sports house cleaning: First get the preening fool Arthur Blank away from the sidelines and well into the background where owners belong. We have to remember that only after Ted Turner got completely out of the spotlight and turned the Braves over to professional baseball people did the Braves begin to do well. Totally flush the Braves of the architects of their legacy of perpetual postseason embarrassment and failure. Shurholtz, Cox, Fruitcake Fredi gone immediately. I believe Danny Ferry is more the victim of circumstance than of his own racial animosity, but bad luck or not, he's branded and has to go.


All 3 teams are saddled w stupidly bad ownership, and are going to be extremely limited for that reason.


Too bad. Atlanta sports just really stink. The old Sports Illustrated tag "Atlanta, Loserville USA!" is just as true today as it was in the 70's or whenever they ran that cover....

foxdog
foxdog

Somebody needs to go......His name is Gearon, Jr.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Had the money been right and the offer made both Carmelo and Deng would have came. ATL's problem is the ATL is the NBA's playground for the other woman.

BTW, I wish Shaq wanted a team...

ATLFAN34
ATLFAN34

Have you been to a Hawks home game?  No free agents want to come here because the "home team" crowd cheers louder for the away team 75% of the time.  It is sad.

JerryMcCrary
JerryMcCrary

Why would you sell the best sports team in Georgia to another city? At least this team wins and has heart unlike the braves and falcons

KatieR620
KatieR620

Sigh,  can we sell this ownership group to Winnepeg?

DollyFrosttav
DollyFrosttav

@CardiganBoy GREAT ERANING JUST OPEN THE SITE AND CHANGE YOUR LIFE .
 Earn 10$ for every 60 seconds Task. Internet Job

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-sting-
-sting-

@The-Truth tell it like it bro. had this theme going since the first of this fiaco. my thought before this franchise can go anywhere. gearon has to go out the door. 


mark?


koonan to be going the route he is going? it shows a lot more strength of character than anything gearon can claim. gearon can't even say he is a whistle blower because you have to be on the outside. 


all of this gearon could have said right from the get go, in private among all concerned either when bruce send his memo or when danny uttered his words. 


is there a follow up memo from gearon to levinson saying he was not talking for the group?doubt it. if there were we would have heard it. bet on it.


was there a voice in the back of the room saying, "danny that is out of order and out of character for you to say those things." no, gearon had to have someone else legislate his "morality". 


he is a hoe like sterling's girl was; wanting money is all it is.

moboman
moboman

@BeulahBallbriker Yep, and what he said, especially in a business meeting, was INCREDIBLY stupid.  But it seems that no one who knows or has listened to him believes he is racist.  So time will tell how this shakes out, but its hard to argue with those that feel he has crossed the line of no return.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@slydawg  He spoke his mind...What?  He was reading a scouts report from someone else. not Ferry own  words.  Who knows Gearon might have set him up to get him fired, wouldn't put it pass Gearon.

-sting-
-sting-

@Mr_Ected working for a known racist didn't stop doc rivers and cp3 from going to take their haul and play for donald sterling did it. still playing for his wife who got nice tickets and a thank you from the league for making her stash by selling the team. they were true racists in every sense of the word and made a haul of money doing there work. stop the nonsense folks.


come on mark get real. its the nba, nothin but attitude.

-sting-
-sting-

@MannyThinks love realistic thinkers. mark seems to be stirring the pot instead of keeping it real.

slydawg
slydawg

They need a million dollar paycheck. It's best to shut up and forgive someone in public rather than continue to stir the pot. As long as Ferry is employed anywhere, only the most destitute bum players will ever sign with whoever employs him. Where else can an undereducated 6 foot +, athlete who can barely read or speak grammatical English make $450,000 minimum? It's about the money, not forgiveness.

MannyThinks
MannyThinks

@JackClemens Ferry goes, then the new GM wants "his" coach. Less cooperation between new GM & Coach Bud until there is a good reason for them to part ways.


I'm all for cleaning the ownership outhouse. It smells in that luxury suite.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Marmoset  right get all black and then it sure want be racist..  what about all red?  what about all blue? what about all white?  how about getting a life.  I don't care what color you are if you can play and win. Ferry don't care either, his job is to win..

moboman
moboman

@ATLFAN34 Mostly because the home team hasn't yielded a product worth cheering.  Atlanta fans support when the product justifies.  We just don't throw money away on a team thats not entertaining to watch.


58Supersports
58Supersports

@-sting- @The-Truth  Both of you  are so right..Mark again playing judge and jury. Mark you and Gearon are two  of a kind stirring  the pot of hate and playing like you so good.  Hell yes Ferry needs to return.  free agents will come, it not the GM they come for its the damn MONEY!!!

slydawg
slydawg

Yet folks laugh when players say they are slaves. The Sterling's and most sports owners are really not that much different from each other or those slave owners of the past: making profit off of human chattel, no matter the color or ethnicity.

moboman
moboman

@slydawg Not buying that.  They already have $$$ contracts.  They don't have to forgive.  Most of our players have present contracts and are valuable enough to sign the next one for even more money.  They can forgive or not, and will still be wealthy.

slydawg
slydawg

Here's the problem with that sentiment: Will the next employer hire you, or in this case, sign you? It depends on who you are. The next team most likely has a white racist owner too. If we all tried to avoid racists, hardly anyone would have a job or earn a living. Besides, how much money do you think the rank and file player has saved? That's why those with a higher profile such as Magic, Deng, Duncan, etc. have publicly forgave him (I doubt they genuinely feel that way). The lesser players will follow them. Notice how the biggest shark (Lebron) has not spoken.

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  1. […] win 60 games.) The team was in the process of being sold, and since the disgraced current ownership could agree on nothing and ultimately broke in two over Ferry, it was left to the new owner to […]