Today’s AJC attempts to address the thorny question: What will the Atlanta Hawks do for a general manager? Technically they have one — here’s where it gets thorny, as you know — but Danny Ferry has done no GM’ing since Sept. 12. He has been on a self-imposed leave of absence.
Even as they were winning a franchise-best 60 games, the Hawks did their best to distance themselves from Ferry — indeed, from the entire Ferry matter. (Never mind that he’d built the roster that would win 60 games.) The team was in the process of being sold, and since the disgraced current ownership could agree on nothing and ultimately fractured over Ferry, it was left to the new owner to decide.
The Hawks are about to get a new owner in Antony Ressler. Part of his ownership group will be the former NBA player Grant Hill, who is, like Ferry, a former Duke player. It’s believed Hill will be named team president. (He has no personnel experience.) It’s whispered that, in preliminary discussions with incumbent Hawks executives, the Ressler camp has evinced no inclination to keep Ferry.
Who has, since Sept. 12, said nothing on the record. He has tried to make peace with some of those who were distressed by his spoken/read-aloud reference to Luol Deng, but the raging consensus is that no new ownership group would want to squander its honeymoon period trying to justify the continuing employment of a GM it didn’t hire.
Trouble is, Danny Ferry isn’t just a GM. He’s the best GM the Hawks have ever had. Counting his time in Cleveland, he has assembled three 60-win teams, and his built-to-suit-LeBron Cavaliers couldn’t have been different from his all-for-one Hawks. There’s great sentiment among fans to bring him back, and I would have no argument if that happened. But I don’t think it will.
Nor do I believe Mike Budenholzer, who serves as the interim GM, will be made the permanent GM. He’s a coach by trade, and a good one. (The NBA’s 2015 coach of the year, if you hadn’t heard.) But the jobs are too different for one man to do both well. Even Gregg Popovich, Budenholzer’s mentor, had to cede GM duties to the capable R.C. Buford, and Popovich had been San Antonio’s general manager before he became its coach.
So: What should/will the Hawks do? In today’s AJC, the guess was that they’d hire someone from outside who isn’t as good as Ferry. (Yes, this is a very Hawk-like dilemma.) But here’s where you get to make a guess of your own.