“Some African in him” is the phrase that many will remember Danny Ferry by. New owner Tony Ressler and his partners wanted to start off their ownership with a clean slate. That clean slate’s major focal point was to get rid of Ferry. They eventually agreed on a buyout, but basically Ferry was fired. This was a mess of a situation, but I’m not sure this is what’s best for business.
The Atlanta Spirit had brought in Ferry in 2012 to help bring the Atlanta Hawks out of the mediocrity they have endured for the past decade. Atlanta continuously would make the playoffs, only to be eliminated in the first or second-round each and every year. Ferry was hired and he went to work immediately. Notable Hawks players at the time such as Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson all found new homes in a short time once Ferry worked his magic.
Josh Smith became a free agent after the 12′-13′ season, and Ferry made it clear the Hawks were not going to re-sign him. That left Hawks fans scratching their heads because they thought Smith was a top player on the team. The problem was these fans were so used to mediocrity that they were scared to take risks. Ferry opted instead to sign free agent Paul Millsap to a 2 year/$19 million contract. Ferry also dealt with Marvin Williams, the player who fans will never forget. One of the most notable busts in NBA Draft history, Ferry decided Williams was not worth his contract. Williams was sent to Utah in exchange for Devin Harris, mainly to shed the salary. The Hawks GM also added a no-name in Demarre Carroll at the time, but Carroll is now one of the top free agents in 2015. Ferry’s main priority though was to get rid of the contract of Joe Johnson, one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Ferry somehow convinced the Nets to take Johnson for five players and a future first-round pick. Some fans in Atlanta were ecstatic about what Ferry was doing in Atlanta, while others were nervous because the team was completely shaken up.
While Ferry was one of the main keys for the teams success in the past years, there are some who are happy about what happened to him. First and foremost is Michael Gearon, a part owner in the Atlanta Spirit, who never hopped onboard with the signing of Ferry. Gearon and his son were always known to have never wanted Ferry in the first place. Bruce Levenson, another co-owner, was the man who called Ferry to offer him the job.
The Gearon’s got their wish though, as the audio tape of Ferry reading a scouting report about Loul Deng came about. Michael Gearon immediately wrote a letter to Bruce Levenson about how Ferry’s comments were worse then former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s were. In part of his letter, Gearon wrote, “Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player as a two-faced liar and cheat.” I agree that Ferry should not have said what he said, but Gearon took it overboard. The Atlanta Spirit created nothing but chaos in Atlanta for years, and the tides are finally starting to turn. Running the Atlanta Spirit out of their ownership roles will only help create success for any Atlanta professional sports teams in the near future.
Ferry faced scrutiny from everybody. Not just anyone who follows the Hawks, but this was a topic around the country. He came out shortly after and stated, “Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual and I certainly regret it.” He went on to mention he apologized to Deng and anyone who he offended with his remarks. Ferry was still under heat, and he felt it was necessary to take a leave of absence on September 12, 2014, never coming back. And I think it’s a damn shame Ferry had to go out this way. What he did for to turn around this franchise was simply remarkable.
Hiring the Coach of the Year and notching the most wins in franchise history last year is an astronomical feat accomplished. Ferry knew he was wrong and did everything he could to replenish the trust that he had before, but people turned their backs on him. Their are many questions still up in the air though. Will Atlanta go back to mediocrity? Why was Ferry not fired immediately? And honestly, I could not answer these questions because I have questions on the situation myself.
After the Donald Sterling saga and the Bruce Levenson email, Ferry’s comments were taken out of context and in my opinion, too personally. Guys like Carmelo Anthony stated that no one wanted to go to Atlanta before, and that no one wants to go now. Anthony was wrong, as Atlanta never laid down to the scrutiny it faced. While Anthony will probably never see the NBA Finals, the Hawks were one round away from the championship stage. Even though Ferry was basically fired, I think Atlanta has a bright future ahead of them because of what Ferry planted in the organization. With Coach Mike Budenholzer now being the in charge as the president of basketball operations, many fans do not have to worry nearly as much as they should.
While Tony Ressler and his partners will take majority ownership of the Atlanta Hawks, the Gearons will only be able to represent a minor part of the franchise. Basically, they will have little to no say in what goes on throughout the Hawks organization, which is very positive news. Running Danny Ferry out of town was a mistake, but trading that with the Gearon’s not being able to have a say in what goes on is big. The Gearon’s seem to like having their names heard, but not anymore. The sale of Ressler, Grant Hill, and the other partners will be completed by June 24. It should be great news to any Atlanta fan because the Atlanta Spirt Ownership is finally fading away. But Ressler already has one mistake on his card; getting rid of Danny Ferry.