Type to search

Columns Main Slider Maria's Metro

Atlanta Hawks winning thanks largely to absence of Danny Ferry

Atlanta Hawks The starting line-up for the Atlanta Hawks (Special: Getty Images)

By Maria Saporta

It’s time to set the record straight.

Contrary to a theme in the national sports world, the Atlanta Hawks are not the team that Danny Ferry built. The Atlanta Hawks are at the top of their game – because Danny Ferry is gone.

At least that is the view of several people who are familiar with the inner-workings of the Atlanta Hawks, including one of team’s most loyal fans – businessman Tommy Dortch

Ferry was the general manager of the Atlanta Hawks until this past summer when he was put on an indefinite leave for having made racially-derogatory comments during a June telephone conference call among team owners about potential players.

Atlanta Hawks

The starting line-up for the Atlanta Hawks (Special: Getty Images)

That led to an internal investigation of the team that also resulted in one of the major owners of the team – Bruce Levenson – stepping down and announcing that he would sell his interest in the Atlanta Hawks.

After all the conflict and confusion in the front office this year, and all the questions over who will own the Hawks, one would expect the team to be in disarray.

But the exact opposite has happened.

With Danny Ferry and Bruce Levenson gone, it is as if a heavy cloud has been lifted from over the team.

Indeed the team has been able to flourish under the exceptional stewardship of Coach Mike Budenholzer who deserves most of the credit for this season’s success of the Atlanta Hawks.

Danny Ferry

Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks General Manager who is out on indefinite leave

Still, all too often, sportscasters and basketball fans are heard saying: “This is the team that Danny Ferry built.”

So now there is a prevalent rumor that Ferry is trying to orchestrate his comeback as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks after next weekend’s All-Star break, according to several people close to the team.

Dortch, an African-American business leader who has chaired the Atlanta Business League several times, has heard about Ferry’s campaign to get his job back. He said he will do everything he can to prevent that from happening.

Mike Budenhoizer

Atlanta Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer (Special: Atlanta Hawks)

“All the success of the Hawks has come with him being gone,” Dortch said in a long telephone conversation Sunday night. “Why would you want to disrupt the harmony that’s going on? Why do you have him come back and upset the chemistry? The community will be up in arms if Danny Ferry comes back.”

Dortch has several reasons to believe that Ferry’s return would be demoralizing to the team in particular and to the city as a whole. Because he is so close to the inner-workings of the team, Dortch had several examples to share.

“There’s no way he should be executive of the year,” Dortch said. “Danny Ferry was attempting to trade Jeff Teague last year before the playoffs, but that did not go through because of him twisting his ankle.”

Teague, one of five starters on the team, is one of the three Hawks players who has been selected to play as part of the Eastern Conference team during the All-Star Game on Feb.15. The team will be coached by Budenholzer.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks players Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap

Without a doubt, a key reason the Atlanta Hawks have the best record in the East is because Teague is part of the team.

Dortch also had a personal unpleasant experience with Ferry.

For two years, Dortch championed the effort to honor legendary Hawks player Dominique Wilkins with a 15-foot-statue at a prominent location in front of Philips Arena.

“He stood in the way (of the statue) for two years,” Dortch said. “We certainly don’t want Danny Ferry around during March 5 and 6. That’s when we will have one of the greatest celebrations of any athlete in this city with the statue dedication for Dominique Wilkins. Here is a guy who didn’t want Dominique to have a statue.”

Tommy Dortch, Jr.

Tommy Dortch, Jr., chairman, Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority

Dortch also said that Ferry was dragging his feet about renewing Wilkins’ contract as part of the executive team and broadcaster for the Atlanta Hawks until after the controversy and once Hawks CEO Steve Koonin got involved.

“Steve Koonin has stepped in and done a good job during a very difficult time,” Dortch said. “Many of us were upset and angry with what went down. Why would anyone let Danny Ferry come back?”

As Dortch sees it, given the fact that the Atlanta Hawks currently are for sale, a new ownership group should not be saddled down with a controversial general manager – especially when the team is playing better than it ever has without having a GM in place.

“All they have done has been done without Danny Ferry,” Dortch said. “Danny hasn’t earned a thing in Atlanta but a one-way ticket out of it. There’s no way I can see him coming back to this team.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Go Hawks February 9, 2015 11:30 am

    Maria – I enjoy reading your articles about Atlanta but maybe you should stay away from sports analysis. Danny was wrong with his comments about Luol Deng (no argument there) and he has paid the price for it. Are you against second chances?

    If Mr. Dortch thinks this Hawks team would have the best record in the NBA without Ferry’s influence, he doesn’t watch much basketball. This is a team composed of non-superstar players which is extremely rare in the NBA. Atlanta is lucky to have had a savvy GM who built this roster, and don’t forget that he also brought in Coach Bud.Report

  2. Baker February 9, 2015 12:29 pm

    @Go Hawks couldn’t be more right. Maybe other GMs would’ve done this but when Danny Ferry was hired the first thing he did was get rid of some amazingly bloated salaries and players that were holding the Hawks back (See: Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams). Those moves alone make him the best Hawks GM in a long long time.Report

  3. Kevin Alexander February 9, 2015 12:30 pm

    This article is b.s. Ferry is the main reason we have the players we have now. They quoted some guy that claimed Ferry tried to trade Teague before the playoffs last year. This is false. He matched the offer sheet Teague signed with Milwaukee in 2013 to keep him in Atlanta. Ferry was trying to trade for Greg Monroe but balked the when Detroit wanted Teague and Korver in exchange.
    Granted Ferry repeated some culturally insensitive nonsense in a scouting report about Deng and was suspended indefinitely for it but his fingerprints are all over this team. I think the Hawks players and team management would welcome him back with open arms. As a fan I know I would.Report

  4. GeraldSolomon February 9, 2015 12:32 pm

    Yeah also respectfully disagree Danny Ferry turned the Hawks from a Salary burdened team of mediocrity into a complete team first monster. Coach B was the right man for the job and they look better than ever. The offloading of all the dead weight was exactly what every real Hawks Fan wanted and he did it and we are doing better than ever at the moment. Go Hawks!Report

  5. WC February 9, 2015 12:40 pm

    Usually a great column but this analysis completely misses the mark. Danny built the roster you’re seeing on the court, including some moves that people thought impossible like unloading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. He thankfully got rid of Josh Smith even though he had a vocal chorus of support in some quarters. He also hired Coach Bud as opposed to him just appearing out of thin air like this column supposes. Danny clearly made a mistake, is paying his dues and should be allowed to return after this season. Some of the players, including the most important link Al Horford, have said as much publicly. In the future I’d suggest being more careful about over-trusting a lone insider with a personal ax to grind.Report

  6. DebAz February 9, 2015 12:42 pm

    I agree with the other poster. First of all, you have the order of events wrong. First came the recordings of the conference call, where one owner said the racially insensitive comments. Then because of THAT investigation, the issue about Ferry came to light. And FYI, what Ferry did was read the comments from a scouting report made by another organization. They were never his words and he has apologized for reading them aloud. 
    Even if Ferry did attempt to trade Teague, no one could have predicted this season. Everyone, even the Hawks, thought the rebuilding project would take much longer. So you can’t blame Ferry for trying to make moves he thought were right at the time. Mr. Dortch clearly has an ax to grind and you just let him sell you on it, hook, line, and sinker. That is sad because it clearly shows you don’t know much about the sport and that you allowed yourself to be taken in. You try and say “several people who are familiar with the inner-workings of the Atlanta Hawks” and yet the ONLY person you reference is Mr. Dortch. The reason Mr. Ferry is talked about as a GM of the Year candidate is a) got rid of some terrible contracts (Joe Johnson), b) didn’t get sucked in to resigning Josh Smith, c) hire Coach Bud and stuck with him even after his DUI, and d) got Kyle Korver for a pittance of his true value.

    I think what this has clearly shown is that Ferry needs to be the GM and focus only on the players and Mr. Koonin as CEO needs to focus on the rest. That is a winning combination.Report

  7. 30yearseasonticketholder February 9, 2015 12:59 pm

    This is a sub-par column that desperately needs more balance. How about a counter-column that quotes someone who doesn’t have an axe to grind? Who made Tom Dortch an expert on running a franchise? Danny Ferry deserves to come back and definitely is the architect of the Hawks current success– you don’t even give him credit for hiring Coach Bud (!). Many many long term fans will tell you is the best team we’ve had here in 20 years, and he took a moribund, salary-laden, star-driven team and turned it into a monster that has many years of success ahead…if he comes back.Report

  8. DGD February 9, 2015 1:02 pm

    This is not a piece of journalism–it is a smear piece and Ms. Saporta should be embarrassed by this one-sided, uninformed hatchet job.  

    Virtually every other basketball expert on the planet has given Mr. Ferry credit for building this team–if Mr. Ferry did not “build” the team, who did?  Certainly not all of the credit for the team’s success is due to Mr. Ferry as Coach “Budenhoizer” [sic] and the players certainly deserve their fair share but Mr. Ferry  assembled this roster AND selected and hired this coach.  I would call that building the team.  

    The basis for Mr. Dortch’s basketball expertise is not identified in the article, other than his “familiarity with the inner-workings” of the team.  What does that mean?  As was stated in one of Ms. Saporta’s previous articles (but which is not mentioned here) is that Mr. Dortch is a “close personal friend” of Mr. Wilkins (see http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/print-edition/2014/09/12/hawks-scandal-opensteam-to-local-ownership.html?page=all). If not Mr. Wilkins, how else is Mr. Dortch familiar with the inner-workings of the team?  Given the relationship between Mr. Dortch and Mr. Wilkins, this article and the earlier article appear to be nothing more than office politics by Mr. Wilkins played out through a compliant media personality who does not normally write about sports.  One is forced to wonder whether Ms. Saporta needs to maintain a “productive” relationship with Mr. Dortch due to his other business and political activities.

    Contrary to Mr. Dortch’s opinion, I have seen DeMarre Carroll, on two separate, unprompted recent occasions, give both Coach Budenholzer and Mr. Ferry credit for the success of the team.  If players are speaking up publicly in support of Mr. Ferry’s efforts of their own initiative, it seems unlikely that Mr. Ferrry’s return would be the morale-crushing event that Mr. Dortch alleges it would be.  Moreover, this article also fails to identify a single supporting voice that agrees with Mr. Dortch’s apparently amateur and biased opinion.  In a true failure of journalistic professionalism worthy of Rolling Stone magazine, the author has made no documented effort to obtain a response or other opinion from Mr. Ferry or the Hawks or anyone else.  

    The article also fails to accurately portray Mr. Ferry’s opposition to a statute for Mr. Wilkins for what it was–a well-documented opposition to any statutes, not an opposition to a statute of Mr. Wilkins in particular–and the article intimates that the opposition was somehow racially based.  While reasonable minds could differ on Mr. Ferry’s position on statutes, characterizing Mr. Dortch’s experience as a “personal unpleasant experience” seems excessive.  Mr. Dortch comes off as someone who, along with Mr. Wilkins, didn’t get what he wanted and is now using the media to get his revenge.  

    Considering trading Jeff Teague is also not the same thing as trading Mr. Teague–many things should be considered; somethings shouldn’t be done.  What was being offered in return for Mr. Teague?  What about the personnel moves that Mr. Ferry actually made?  Hiring Coach Budenholzer when no one else had heard of him.  Dumping Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, et al.  Adding Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore–all at reasonable contracts.  Drafting Dennis Schroder.  Retaining Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague (when there was a real difference of opinion on whether to match Milwaukee’s offer two years ago).  In Mr. Dortch’s assassination of Mr. Ferry’s performance, however, all of that is overcome because Mr. Ferry “thought about trading Jeff Teague last year but didn’t.”  Please.  

    Finally, I’m not sure that any of us know whether Mr. Wilkins, despite his unquestioned talents as a player, actually makes a good front office executive.  Mr. Wilkins was certainly associated with the team long before Mr. Ferry’s arrival and the team was terrible and rejected by the community during that period.  What, exactly, besides his legacy as a great player, has Mr. Wilkins brought to the table as an executive and why would it be important to retain him as an executive?  As we have seen this year, only a losing team needs to network with the community to sell tickets; a winning team sells tickets itself.  In Mr. Wilkins’ defense, the annals of the NBA are littered with quality players who were not so great in the front office or on the bench (see, e.g., Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson).

    Ms. Saporta, you have a long and well-regarded reputation in the Atlanta community.  This is the kind of article that causes one to consider how many of your other articles need to be viewed through a different lens much as Brian William’s Iraq reporting is now causing his Hurricane Katrina reporting to be viewed in a new light.  Please do not squander your reputation this way.Report

  9. SaportaReport February 9, 2015 2:00 pm

    Thanks for reading Kevin Alexander- sharing your comments with Maria. We want to hear all sides on this oneReport

  10. DGD February 9, 2015 2:18 pm

    Ms. Saporta–if you are going to remove my comment, you should probably remove this article.  My comment was certainly more professional than this article.  Feel free to email me with a clear explanation of the reason why my comment was removed.Report

  11. mariasaporta February 9, 2015 7:08 pm

    @DGD I did not remove your comment. That’s not the way I operate.  I welcome differing opinions.  i don’t know what happened to your comment. Please repost.Report

  12. ATKII February 9, 2015 7:19 pm

    I would like to echo the others on here and respectfully disagree with Mr. Dortch’s unique take on Your Atlanta Hawks. Danny Ferry’s finger prints are all over this team from the roster to the players who are no longer here to Coach Bud to working with a comically dysfunctional ownership group. I too am deeply offended by the words Ferry used to describe Luol Deng and I imagine his time in Atlanta is over. But to assert the Hawks are better without Ferry in the building is ridiculous. These are nearly the same Hawks that pushed the team with the best record in the NBA to seven games in playoffs last year without their leader and center Al Horford. Ferry was sitting in the front row. That is where this run really started.Report

  13. Dwade February 9, 2015 9:14 pm

    Wow, I did not know that Ferry tried to trade Teague.  This Hawk’s team would be a completely different team without him.  Also, cannot understand why Ferry would have opposed a Dominique statue but I guess if Dortch spearheaded the efforts, he certainly would know about Ferry.  One thing everyone can agree upon is the great job coach Bud has done.Report

  14. RPH February 9, 2015 9:38 pm

    Really poor article for all reasons posted below. Otherwise enjoy Maria’s work but fans with axes to grind should not be held up as sports experts no matter how bad ferry’s comments were.Report

  15. mariasaporta February 9, 2015 10:39 pm

    Dear Readers,
    First of all, I do welcome all your opinions.  
    And it is because I value a diversity of opinions that I felt compelled to write this column. It seemed to me that the only voices who were being heard were those singing the same party line about this being the team that Danny Ferry built.  I really believed there needed to be a countering view to balance what was being said – especially based on the information that I know to be true.
    Believe me, Tommy Dortch does not have an axe to grind. He was not my sole source on this story.  I have literally talked to a dozen or more folks who have been integrally involved with the Hawks and know the situation inside out.  Many are not interested in being quoted – some openly admit a fear of retribution – just in case Danny Ferry does get his job back.
    Admittedly, I did make a major omission, and I do need to correct that. Danny Ferry did bring us Coach Mike Budenholzer – and for that we certainly must be extremely grateful. But I think this season has shown what Coach Bud can do when he has had no interference from others – including a general manager. We really have a streamlined team – it’s the players and the coaching staff – and it’s working beautifully.
    One day, the real story will come out about the kind of unhealthy workplace environment that existed within the Hawks organization when Danny Ferry was running the show – the wonderful, dedicated people who lost their jobs or who were pushed aside. Any new owner who does his or her homework will quickly find out who really deserves credit for creating a winning team – both on and off the court.
    You may think I shouldn’t write about sports because you disagree with me. But I have done as much homework on this story as I’ve done on just about any other story I’ve worked on in recent memory. I have followed the Hawks for decades, and I couldn’t be happier with the success they are enjoying today.
    But I also know that there are many people who deserve credit for that success – dating back to Ted Turner, Lee Douglas, Stan Kasten, Bob Williams, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Gearon Jr. and Michael Gearon Sr., Rutherford Seydel, Bob Hope, Tommy Dortch, Steve Koonin, and all the players I have enjoyed watching over the years – beginning with Spud Webb, Tree Rollins, Danny Roundfield (RIP), Armond Hill, Mike Glenn, and so on. 
    And throughout all those years with all those players, I can tell you that the Atlanta Hawks of today are as exciting and inspiring a team as I’ve ever seen. And I do not want to see all that wonderful energy get zapped by the negativity that would come with a return of Danny Ferry.
    And yes, that is a point of view I needed to share with you for the sake of the Atlanta Hawks and for the sake of our city.

  16. Ron Hewitt Jr February 9, 2015 11:33 pm

    Ms. Saporta:
    Here is an email I wrote to Mr. Koonin about Danny Ferry which resulted in a phone call from him that lasted approximately 30 minutes followed by an email sent to the editorial page of the AJC. Dear Mr. Koonin:
    It has taken us awhile to write this as we wanted to be appropriately measured in our response, even though that is not what we really wanted to do. We really wanted to go off like fireworks. When I first heard the news I felt like I had been kicked in the gut and my wife felt the extreme anger I arrived at as the news progressed. We are team gear buying, RED customers, and season ticket holders. We also grew up in the fearful, deadly and terrorizing civil rights era. My wife grew up in a town that took her parents’ tax money to support a public pool she couldn’t swim in. When African-Americans marched and protested, the response was to close the public pool and build a private pool for Whites. When she wanted a hot dog and to spin around on the counter stool like her young White peer in a downtown Atlanta establishment she was informed by her aunt, “that is for White folks.” She threw her hot dog on the floor, stomped it and left. I spent my school years running from mobs of White kids, being injured the first time and trying to sidestep the racism of many of their parents. Now we find ourselves unwelcome in our arena which we live 10 minutes from. It is the swimming pool all over again. We have spent thousands of dollars with the Hawks and the vendors in the arena. My wife has spent considerable money on team gear over the years. Do we feel like fools for spending our money where we are not wanted or welcome? Of course. I am glad Bruce Levenson is selling his interest and would welcome the others to do the same. Mr. Gearon, Jr. seems to be the only one willing to question this heinous behavior. GM Danny Ferry should be leaving on the first available transportation. He “was reading the report” does not pass the smell test. He went to Duke. He’s an educated man. He knew what he was saying. He felt comfortable because he was aware 2 years ago, via Bruce Levenson’s email, how some of the Hawks owners and operations personnel felt about African-Americans in general and African-American Hawks fans in particular. I have to question your motivation in providing your unwavering support for Danny Ferry. Perhaps you are of the same mind pertaining to your African-American fan base. You said the organization “did not do the right thing.” The right thing is to terminate the contract of Danny Ferry. Our purchase of season tickets predates your and Danny Ferry’s involvement with the Hawks organization. You call us members. How can we be members if we have to look in the face of the GM when we are acutely aware of his disdain and possible hatred of his African-American fan base? After my wife and I voted for the first African-American mayor in Atlanta history, we thought , at least on this little island called Atlanta the fear and terror had been driven underground. Congratulations to the ownership group and operations personnel for not only raising that specter again but welcoming it with open arms. Conveying the depth of the emotions we feel in an email is nigh impossible. They have turned a place we felt as comfortable in as a second home into a place we now dread to enter. Do not expect us to fall in line with the misguided and I’m thinking self-serving comments of Magic and Jabbar on this issue. If they want to tell us how to think then they need to pay for our Hawks’ “membership”, team gear, and related expenses. They both need a serious education in African-American history. They are not “members”, Hawks’ fans, or Atlantans. Do the right thing. It is not the easiest thing to do but it is the most courageous. We will be in the arena this season since we already purchased our tickets. We may not be in attendance the following season. That depends on the actions of you and the organization going forward. I will close now even though there is much more that needs to be said.
    In response to the 2/8/2014 letter to the editor advocating the return of Hawks’ GM Danny Ferry:
    We are long-time, team-gear buying, Hawks’ season ticket holders with African in us. We also grew up in the fearful, deadly and terrorizing Civil Rights’ era.
    GM Danny Ferry should be leaving on the first available transportation. He “was reading the report” does not pass the smell test. The writer wants us to believe, this man is so feeble-minded he did not understand what he was reading and the inappropriate, racist, and mean-spirited nature of what came out his mouth. He went to Duke, one of the preeminent universities in the country if not the world. He’s an educated man. He knew what he was saying and another attendee of the meeting stated, that’s going to be on ESPN. He felt comfortable saying it because he was aware 2 years ago, via Bruce Levenson’s email, how some of the Hawks owners and operations personnel felt about African-Americans in general and African-American Hawks’ fans in particular. He did not stand up for us. Why should we stand up for him? We found ourselves unwelcome in our arena which we live 10 minutes from and spent thousands of dollars in. Forgive? Possibly. Forget? Never. Overreaction? Hardly. We understand the Rattlesnake will strike us in self-defense so we forgive its presence while denying it access to our homes. Danny Ferry has no such excuse. Such behavior was, is, and always will be dangerous to those of us labeled by such deragatory speech. We do not intend to sell our principles for some basketball games. This is bigger than NBA basketball.Report

  17. Sad February 10, 2015 9:30 am

    It’s really depressing to see all the white Hawks fans in these comments making the ridiculous assertion that the Hawks are as good as they are because of their former manager. Their claims do not comport with reality.Report

  18. GeorgeGobel February 10, 2015 9:52 am

    The quality of this article is is reflected in the gross misspelling of two of the three players’ names in the caption.  “Al Hereford, Jeff Teague, and Paul Milsaps”.  Really?Report

  19. Baker February 10, 2015 10:54 am

    @Sad “Their claims do not comport with reality” Are you just saying that based on the above column or do you have some other insight on that?Report

  20. Baker February 10, 2015 11:02 am

    @Ron Hewitt Jr “They have turned a place we felt as comfortable in as a second home into a place we now dread to enter” No one would defend what Levenson said or what Ferry said but “dread to enter”? When were any threats made against anyone? Levenson’s emails were stupid and suggested his problem with the generally black culture in the arena but threats? And for that matter, Magic & Kareem need lessons in African-American history? Uhh…I think they have a good idea about it. Kareem was a 7 foot black man born in 1947. I think he has a pretty good idea about the African-American experience.Report

  21. David February 10, 2015 12:00 pm

    Baker There were no doubt pros to Danny Ferry’s role as GM. Such
    as getting rid of iso player contracts (Joe Johnson and Josh Smith being the
    biggest), getting hopeful Dennis Shroder, and signing players like Paul Millsap
    to a 2 year contract (should’ve been longer). The biggest, by far, bringing
    over coach Mike Budenholzer.
    However, there are also apparent racist negatives: his
    comments of Loul Deng and “his African ways,” not wanting to honor Dominique
    Wilkins, and trying to get rid of Jeff Teague.
    I read every Hawks article, and I’m surprised that the pervading sentiment is “he does not get credit for the team he built” or that
    we should bring him back. He does get credit, and I think bringing back a
    racist, brash, and decision-oriented person as the face of our front office
    could throw off everything the team has going for it.
    I believe our success is less about the players that Ferry brought,
    and more due to Mike Budenholzer and his staff in developing these players and
    creating such a smart and efficient system.
    Danny Ferry did a lot of good for our team, but I think he
    left at the right time. Something magical happened when Budenholzer was able to
    take free reign of the team. I think Budenholzer should stay in his new role,
    much like Popovich does in San Antonio, and we should wish good riddance to a
    man that made some good decisions, but revealed a dark, disquieting side
    towards the end.
    That is not to say that Danny Ferry should stay out of the NBA,
    but he is not what Atlanta needs.Report

  22. David February 10, 2015 12:19 pm

    Since a lot of people commenting on this article share similar sentiments to the guy for whom I wrote this, I’m going to echo what I said to him:

    There were no doubt pros to Danny Ferry’s role as GM. Such
    as getting rid of iso player contracts (Joe Johnson and Josh Smith being the
    biggest), getting hopeful Dennis Shroder, and signing players like Paul Millsap
    to a 2 year contract (should’ve been longer). The biggest, by far, bringing
    over coach Mike Budenholzer.
    However, there are also apparent racist negatives: his
    comments of Loul Deng and “his African ways,” not wanting to honor Dominique
    Wilkins, and trying to get rid of Jeff Teague.
    I read every Hawks article, and I’m surprised by the
    pervading sentiment that “he does not get credit for the team he built” or that
    we should bring him back. He does get credit, and I think bringing back a
    racist, brash, and decision-oriented person as the face of our front office
    could throw off everything the team has going for it.
    I believe our success is less about the players that Ferry
    brought, and more due to Mike Budenholzer and his staff in developing these
    players and creating such a smart and efficient system.
    Danny Ferry did a lot of good for our team, but I think he
    left at the right time. Something magical happened when Budenholzer was able to
    take free reign of the team. I think Budenholzer should stay in his new role,
    much like Popovich does in San Antonio, and we should wish good riddance to a
    man that made some good decisions, but revealed a dark, disquieting side
    towards the end.
    That is not to say that Danny Ferry should stay out of the
    NBA, but he is not what Atlanta needs.Report

  23. DebAz February 10, 2015 12:36 pm

    mariasaporta I appreciate you taking the time to write this response. However, more of what you said here should have been in the original article. If you had made it clear throughout that you had talked to several people and that they didn’t wish to go on record, people would have reacted differently. In addition, you are still not giving Ferry his due for this team doing well. Look at how he was able to trade people who others thought were untradeable? Look at those he brought in, such as Korver. And I’m sorry, but to say that the Hawks of today success is in part to people long since uninvolved with the team sounds silly (Ted Turner? really?).  
      While I understand your point was to say it wasn’t all of Ferry’s doing for their success, to so completely deny it undermined your position. It doesn’t provide the balance you say you were seeking. A piece that said “Danny Ferry has done a lot for this team. But here is why he still shouldn’t be allowed back” would have served your aims far better.
        It sounds like Ferry could be an SOB (I dare say there are few successful GMs in any pro sport that aren’t from time to time) and it also sounds like he had way too much on his plate, which is why Koonin was brought in to begin with. A GM should never have a say in how a former legend is honored. A GM’s job is to focus on building an maintaining a winning team. 
       I don’t know if Ferry should come back or not. I just believe in being fair and I felt this piece wasn’t. I believe I have read enough of your work to know that even if you wish to call someone out you still strive to be fair, hence my disappointment. Please remember, even the devil deserves his due.Report

  24. Hawk no more February 10, 2015 12:58 pm

    Michael Guerin, really? A serial leaker.Report

  25. Baker February 10, 2015 1:04 pm

    @David Alright, we can all agree the comments about Deng were racist and stupid. Where is the evidence that the thing with Nique or trading Teague has anything to do with racism? If you’re going to try and trade away African-American players in the NBA because you’re racist, you’re going to have a tough time….

    I feel like Ferry is getting swept up in the Levenson business which was not his fault at all and a power struggle perhaps by some folks who have been involved with the Hawks for a long time and didn’t like the new faces…new faces which have resulted in where they are now…a much different place than pre-Ferry.Report

  26. DebAz February 10, 2015 1:24 pm

    @David “the face of our front office could throw off everything the team has going for it.”
      Yes, but he wouldn’t be the face of the front office now, would he? That’s now Koonin’s role.Report

  27. David February 10, 2015 1:29 pm

    Baker Where are you getting your sources? Levenson was swept up in the Ferry business, not the other way around. People were uncomfortable after Ferry made racist remarks, and it caused an internal investigation, which resulted in finding an email Levenson wrote in 2012. The major reason while Levenson is backing down is because of his outspoken remarks when a certain LA Clippers’ owner made racist comments.

    I think you have missed the point of my comment. Post-Ferry has been sunshine. The Hawks have excelled, Dominique gets his statue, and our players have thrived. Budenholzer deserves major kudos for excellently controlling the front office.

    There is a simple truth to what happened: if you are racist towards a potential client, especially to the controlling members of your business, you get fired. Do you want someone like that in a major role in your organization? No. You are hyping up someone who you don’t know, that people are projecting about, because you are relishing in the success of the Hawks.

    Credit Budenholzer for this success. Bringing Ferry back could undo the fabulous chemistry that he has brought.Report

  28. DebAz February 10, 2015 1:41 pm

    @David Baker Actually you are both right. Ferry’s comments came first, then the investigation that found Levenson’s email. BUT the news about Levenson broke 1st and was the biggest issue at first. Then the news about Ferry broke and they suspended him. Chances are if not for Levenson’s email and how bad that made the Hawk’s look, they never would have suspended Ferry.  So Ferry’s exile does have to do with the email. 
    BTW, they have released the scouting report (which came from the Cavs FYI) and it says almost exactly what Ferry said. This is similar to the Sony hacking scandal, because the real lesson in both is in this day and age, ALWAYS assume anything you say (whether verbal or written) in private can come back to bite you. See also: Mitt Romney and the 42%.Report

  29. David February 10, 2015 1:42 pm

    It depends how you define face. The general manager’s role is in charge of bringing talent and selling contracts. So for free agents, draft picks, and other NBA teams he is the face. The CEO is a public relations and operations role within the organization. So to the fans he is the face. So in terms of chemistry of the team, it rests on Budenholzer’s shoulders, and he has succeeded.

    Prior to the Hawks, Koonin had a large role in marketing, entertainment, and ad presence for both Turner and Coke. He was the president of Turner before joining the Hawks. That is why when people wish to honor an executive it wouldn’t be Koonin, but Ferry.Report

  30. DebAz February 10, 2015 1:50 pm

    @David Yes, I get that. And this is also why Ferry never should have been involved with whether or not a statue to Dominique Wilkins was installed. That isn’t a GM’s job and shows that he had far too much on his plate. If he does come back it will be in a much more traditional GM role.
       I think both sides in this are feeling a part of the elephant and make decisions based on it. All of the success isn’t all due to Ferry. However, just because Ferry has been away, that doesn’t mean it is all Coach Bud’s either. Bud had coached for one year with Ferry and now (so far) one year without. Both are very small sizes not to mention the rosters are different in both cases. We just don’t know. I think either way the Hawk’s go (keep or lose Ferry) the decision is justified. One thing worth noting, is that after Bud got napped for DUI, Ferry stood by him.Report

  31. David February 10, 2015 2:05 pm

    DebAz I agree with you, and I think the way we are handling it is the correct way. We are not smearing Ferry’s name more than he has already done, and we are just “quietly” becoming a successful franchise. It says volumes about the Hawks. What is worrisome to me is the media victimizing Ferry, and cherry-picking comments said about him. It’s beginning to reflect in Hawks fans comments—believe me, I read everything written about them.

    In my opinion we have a good thing going, and we shouldn’t screw it up.

    Ferry does deserve credit, but having the most efficient shot selection, the highest assisted field goal percentage, and the defensive turnaround after the Toronto loss this season should all be credited to the coach and his staff. I think Ferry can find success at another organization, but I’m unsure if he will make as many lucky deals, like the Joe Johnson Nets trade and Pistons Josh Smith trade. The stars have aligned for us, and a lot of our existing players and all stars aren’t a result of Ferry.Report

  32. DebAz February 10, 2015 2:22 pm

    @David DebAz But you are assuming that bringing Ferry back WOULD screw it up and we have no data to support that either. And there is no proof that letting him go would led to the continued success either.Report

  33. David February 10, 2015 2:28 pm

    We have data support the opposite, and that brings me to my point: why potentially screw up a good thing?Report

  34. Ron Hewitt Jr February 10, 2015 7:03 pm

    Baker  Yes. Dread to enter. What did you not understand? Those type of comments always preceded hateful and sometimes terrifying actions by White schoolchildren and their parents. It is especially terrifying when children are confronted by adults in this manner and when you must run for what you assume to be your life. The threat is implicit in the language. Do you not understand the power of language? The timing of Magic’s and Kareem’s birth has absolutely nothing to do with whether they understand their history. That is why Black History programs were initiated at institutions of higher learning. It wasn’t being taught elsewhere. Who are you to question our feeling of dread? Could you possibly be more arrogant and supercilious?Report

  35. EveryLastWord February 10, 2015 10:17 pm

    This may the least Maria Saporta-like article I’ve ever read.   Claims to reflect a breadth of opinion while quoting a grand total of one obviously negative source (repeatedly).  No balance.  Wonder if any attempt was made to talk to Ferry.  I wonder if the Saporta Report was hacked.Report

  36. mariasaporta February 11, 2015 1:41 am

    EveryLastWord No my website wasn’t hacked. 
    Maria’s Metro is my weekly column. Several weeks I don’t even quote a source because I’m usually offering my point of view based on the information and analysis I have gathered over the years of growing up and living in this town.
    As a journalist for 35 years, I have come to realize that “truth” is relative. We are all a product of our own experiences and our points of view. I always try to maintain an open mind to get as close to what could be considered an absolute truth – but I have come to realize that such truth may be beyond our grasp as human beings.
    That said, I never went into this business to be “liked” or to write stories that everybody “liked.” Sometimes I write pieces that I believe need to be written.
    I strongly believe in what Atlanta stands for – a city that has been able to show the South and the rest of the world the best side of humanity – dignity among people of different races and ethnicities. 
    When I go to Hawks games, that’s what I see – a multicultural and diverse Atlanta. And that is the Atlanta that I celebrate.
    After having had a dozen or more conversations with people I respect who value the spirit of Atlanta as I do, I continue to believe that it would be harmful to what our city stands for if Danny Ferry were to return as GM. Yes, that is my opinion. But it is my opinion based on solid information. I also do not think it would be good for the team or its winning spirit.Report

  37. Come on son February 11, 2015 8:29 am

    This is crazyReport

  38. EveryLastWord February 11, 2015 8:29 am

    mariasaporta EveryLastWord I get that it’s an opinion piece.  The reason people pay attention to your opinion is because you’ve earned a reputation for being in the know AND for fairness. This piece doesn’t pass the fairness test imo.  I don’t expect to “like” much of what I read in the media.  But I do look for fairness, which no doubt I will continue to find in your column far more often than not.  
    Anyway, thanks for responding.Report

  39. Come on son February 11, 2015 8:36 am

    This is RIDICULOUS. I’m curious how Dortsh is considered an “insider”? Is he paid by the team? If so, he’s paid by the “owners” that leaked Ferry’s testimonial and wanted him go? That doesn’t seem like an honest opinion for the article. He knows about potential trades? Danny Ferry is far from a racist. His best friend and ex roomate is African American. But all this aside to say this is NOT Danny’s team is absurd. ABSURD. He hired the coach. He traded for the players. He built the locker room culture. He made playoffs 6 years in a row. OH…on the 3rd lowest salary cap. So I ask…who should take the credit?Report

  40. Come on son February 11, 2015 8:48 am

    @mariasaporta I’m not sure I get it? Spud Webb deserves credit for today’s success? Ted Turner? You have now made this a basketball conversation. So let’s talk basketball. Nobody but Danny and Bud and the guys on the bench can take credit for this team. NOBODY. You think the owners know Sephalosha is the right fit to play defense? No. Danny and his scouting team hand picked the team. They did it to create a style of play that would be able to create match up problems for opponents and defend. It took years and they have done it. The owners just wrote checks and put there trust in basketball operations. Don’t give credit to this team to those that were involved years ago and don’t even come to games. Spud Webb and Ted Turner probably couldn’t name our starting 5 or tell you who our 6th man is. Can you?Report

  41. atlman February 11, 2015 8:55 am


    “As a journalist for 35 years, I have come to realize that “truth” is relative.”
    Thanks Ms. Jacques Derrida.Report

  42. atlman February 11, 2015 8:57 am


    Josh Smith wasn’t an iso player. Not wanting to honor Dominique Wilkins is logical because only players who win titles are supposed to get statues. Trying to trade Jeff Teague had nothing to do with race.Report

  43. atlman February 11, 2015 9:26 am

    “But I think this season has shown what Coach Bud can do when he has had no interference from others – including a general manager. We really have a streamlined team – it’s the players and the coaching staff – and it’s working beautifully.”

    And the fact that Al Horford, one of their best players and pretty much the only frontcourt player that can score in the paint consistently, missed last season due to injury had absolutely nothing to do with it …Report

  44. DGD February 11, 2015 12:28 pm

    mariasaporta Would if I could.  I didn’t keep a copy.  It was posted.  I saw it.  An hour later it was gone.Report

  45. Hawk no more February 11, 2015 2:31 pm

    Tommy Dortch is the sole contact but there is no context. Is he a fan, an employee of the Hawks, or what? There are references to a campaign to bring Ferry back, but no one is identified and the AJC has not written anything about it. There is no pretext of balance. Why was no one with a different view point interviewed? What does the statue have to do with anything? Had the author not written a follow-up message, I would have thought, and hoped, that her computer had been hacked. Ms. Saporta has a reputation for being fair and balanced. She seriously dropped the ball.Report

  46. JinGP February 11, 2015 2:37 pm

    “I would (welcome Ferry back). He’s the one that had the vision. He brought us together.” – Al Horford
    “I would welcome him with open arms,” said Hawks forward DeMarre
    Carroll, one of many players Ferry brought to Atlanta. “I don’t feel
    he’s a racist. I think he genuinely learned from his mistakes.”

    “After a year of watching what Danny (Ferry) was doing and the people he
    was bringing in. Everything I saw, was so attractive to me and I really
    believed in it. I believed that he was going to turn things around.” – Kyle Korver

    Magic Johnson said after a “heart to heart meeting” with Ferry, he considered
    the latter’s apology “very sincere” and thinks Ferry “deserves a second
    “All I can say is with my own relationship with Danny, and I know I’ve
    got a lot of teammates from all over from San Antonio, Cleveland — it
    doesn’t matter whether they’re black or white or what race or religion —
    everybody who knows Danny knows that he’s a good person,” Steve Kerr said.
    “And it’s just a difficult time for him, and he made a mistake, so
    hopefully he can get through it. But he’s got our support.”

    “I think one of the hardest things to do as a human being, and it’s
    something we should do more often, is forgive,” Deng said. “I really do
    forgive Danny. It’s not something I want to hold onto for the rest of my
    career or the rest of my life.”
    “I know Danny very well and we’ve always had high-quality interactions,”
    said player agent Bill Duffy, who represents more than 30 clients
    including http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/592/steve-nash, http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/3026/rajon-rondo, http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/3224/joakim-noah and http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/3059319/andrew-wiggins.
    “He’s been involved in pro basketball his entire life and I’ve been
    shown nothing but respect in my dealings with him. He’s always been of
    good character and I have admired him over the years.”

    Tim Duncan: “I don’t think he’s a racist in anyway. He said something that was absolutely wrong, but he’s not a racist.”
    “I have known Danny Ferry for 30 years,” Jay Bilas told Basketball Insiders.
    “He is and always has been a great teammate and friend.  I have always
    known him to be a man of great character and integrity and, knowing him
    as I do, I don’t doubt his character or integrity for one second.”Report

  47. Hawk no more February 11, 2015 2:45 pm

    JinGP  So who do we believe, people in the business and players or a disgruntled fan with an axe to grind?Report

  48. Hawk no more February 11, 2015 2:52 pm

    @Ron Hewitt Jr Baker  it is obvious from Mr. Hewitt’s missives that there is only one correct answer and he will tell us what it is. He obviously knows nothing about Kareem who was well ahead of his time.Report

  49. DebAz February 11, 2015 5:05 pm

    mariasaporta EveryLastWord I have a lot of respect for you taking the time to respond and engage in these comments Maria. Thank you for doing so. However, they do leave me confused. The first comment mentioned “One day, the real story will come out about the kind of unhealthy workplace environment that existed within the Hawks organization when Danny Ferry was running the show – the wonderful, dedicated people who lost their jobs or who were pushed aside. Any new owner who does his or her homework will quickly find out who really deserves credit for creating a winning team – both on and off the court.”   So the point seems to be that Ferry is bad manager and that is why he should go.

    But in this response you say “After having had a dozen or more conversations with people I respect who value the spirit of Atlanta as I do, I continue to believe that it would be harmful to what our city stands for if Danny Ferry were to return as GM.”  So it seems that your point is to keep someone on that some people consider to be racist is why he should go.

    So…which is it? Or is it both?Report

  50. Will13 February 12, 2015 9:24 am

    I think that Dortch is off-base. It’s obvious that his distaste for Ferry is personal. I am of the opinion that the Hawks are the team that Danny Ferry built -and that it’s time for him to formally come back to work. I am a long-time African-American resident of the city and avid sports fan. 

    Yep, Danny Ferry screwed up. However, it would appear that he has learned greatly from his mistake and the experience. On the other hand, I greatly believe in forgiveness, second chances and compassion. It’s past time for him to come back.Report

  51. Hawk no more February 12, 2015 2:21 pm

    Mr. Dortch was the man behind Fanplex, the ill-fated amusement center across from the
    stadium that was a bust.Report

  52. Hawk no more February 12, 2015 2:25 pm

    Fanplex was an entertainment center in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta,_Georgia, adjacent to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turner_Field. It opened in 2002 and was shut down in early 2004 after losing $500,000, above and beyond an initial investment of $2.5 million.
    The attraction was meant to lure fans of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Braves with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniature_golf and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game, and to pump economic activity into the depressed area around the stadium. However, Fanplex saw little business, even on game days, perhaps since it was actually located far away from most game-day foot traffic. An initial staff of 16 was pared down to one and operating hours were scaled back as patrons continued not to show up.
    Critics say Fanplex was largely built to justify the existence of the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, which was originally created to manage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta-Fulton_County_Stadium and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omni_Coliseum, both of which no longer exist, along with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoo_Atlanta.
    An October 2, 2006 article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanplex#cite_note-1 in the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Journal_Constitution says that the authority has put the facility up for sale twice, but cannot find a buyer at the $2.7 million price it has sought. The miniature golf course is now overgrown and nearby residents complain that the facility has become another vacant parking lot. With seemingly few commercial prospects for the current facility, Atlanta leaders quoted by the paper speculate Fanplex may ultimately be swept up in large-scale redevelopment of areas around the stadium.
    Starting November 2013, the Fanplex is home to the “A” team of Archer Western Contractors who is currently constructing a 5 million gallon underground storage tank in the media lot across Hank Arron Drive.Report

  53. Art Vandelay February 12, 2015 3:16 pm

    mariasaporta EveryLastWord Maria, what did Michael Gearon and his entourage promise you in exchange for you carrying their water in this hit piece? You quote all of one source, who clearly has a personal axe to grind, and you didn’t even make any effort to find someone who could provide a different opinion. Try some journalism.Report

  54. Hawk no more February 12, 2015 3:31 pm

    from the AJC today:
    People like Gearon love working in the shadows, trying to plant stories with media outlets. When one doesn’t bite, they go to another, or they feed their friends and have them feed stories.
    Suddenly, we have this amusing piece in an Atlanta business newsletter, the Saporta Report, with a headline, “Atlanta Hawks winning thanks largely to absence of Danny Ferry.” The article extensively quotes Atlanta businessman Tommy Dortch, a member of the “100 Black Men of America,” and a strong proponent of the Wilkins statue.
    Dortch and “several people who are familiar with the inner-workings of the Atlanta Hawks,” according to writer Maria Saporta, believe the Hawks couldn’t function like this if Ferry was around. Never mind that Ferry picked the players, picked the coach and restructured the organization. He’s the problem, “several people who are familiar with the inner-workings” of the Hawks believe.Report

  55. Hawk no more February 12, 2015 3:50 pm

    more from AJC: It would be nice not to be addressing this at all now. But some in the Atlanta group continue to stoke the flames, such as Michael Gearon Jr., who orchestrated Ferry’s exit and fears his return. The problem with people like Gearon is they want you to believe they’re humble and pure and their intentions are honorable, when in fact they’re more conniving and devious than you could possibly comprehend.Report

  56. EveryLastWord February 12, 2015 4:03 pm

    Hawk no more  Whether one thinks that Ferry is the savior of the Hawks or the devil incarnate, one thing can’t be denied – the Atlanta Spirit is the most annoying clown act in this town since the Shriners parade used to gum up downtown traffic.  I’m sorry to read in Schultz’s piece that the sales process isn’t humming along as fast as I had thought.Report

  57. Hawk no more February 12, 2015 4:13 pm

    EveryLastWord Hawk no more  Agree. it was unbelievable that Gearon and his buddies originally said that they would not sell their interests. Can you imagine anyone wanting them as partners?Report

  58. Baker February 12, 2015 5:07 pm

    Hawk no more EveryLastWord Fwiw, The conclusion of that piece you’re excerpting here is also that Danny Ferry should go.Report

  59. Burroughston Broch February 12, 2015 5:35 pm

    @atlman mariasaporta  Moral relativism, the last stronghold of progressive political thought.Report

  60. EveryLastWord February 12, 2015 7:06 pm

    Baker Hawk no more EveryLastWord What drew me to the conversation was the premise and headline of Maria’s piece that Ferry’s absence made possible the Hawks’ current success, and the statement in her lead that the team was not built by him.  Those are ludicrous positions imo, whether Ferry does or doesn’t come back.Report

  61. Hawk no more February 13, 2015 9:59 am

    Baker Hawk no more EveryLastWord  Whether he would return has never been the issue. The issue is that the article was unbalanced and obviously planted by the Gearon crowd. More disturbing is that it was planted at a time when the attention should be on the Hawks and not the Gearon crowd. I have seen not one article advocating Ferry’s return now.Report

  62. Hawk no more February 13, 2015 11:50 am

    mariasaporta  Did you talk with Mike Gearon?Report

  63. Brazilian Hawk February 13, 2015 8:28 pm

    Michael Gearon Jr. is a cancer to the front office, just as much Josh Smith was a cancer to the team. One down, one (hopefully) to go. Danny Ferry has built a winner from basically nothing and should be back ASAP. He should win the Executibe of the Year award. This is the best Hawks team EVER, and it’s the result of Danny’s, Coach Bud’s and the players’ work. Every real Hawks fan should be clamoring for the reinstatement of Ferry. 


  64. Curt February 14, 2015 7:57 am

    So you’re willing to take the word of people who’s business dealings ran our second (and possibly last hockey team) out of the city. People who IMMEDIATELY broke an agreement with the NHL to NOT sell the team for a period of six years and tried to sell it as soon as they got up from the table buying the team. The very same people who ignored local attempts to buy the team and sold it to a Canadian outpost? 

    That’s the people you’re putting your trust in?

    David Stern and Gary Bettman are on record as having said how poor the Atlanta Spirit ownership group is. How bad their judgement is.  Any true fan of the Hawks and the Thrashers knows how incompetent Gearon’s cadre of insanity is. Agreeing with Billy Knight’s hair brained scheme. Giving Joe Johnson a huge contract. Choosing to not support the hockey team. Running both teams on a shoestring budget just good enough to make the playoffs to collect the playoff checks. 

    Where do these facts end up in the matrix of “truth” that you seem to be looking through?Report

  65. Sticktopolitics February 14, 2015 2:30 pm

    This is just poor journalism, even if editorial. I have been following your articles(even the ones that magically disappeared from your site? do tell how that happened) since this whole thing started and its pathetic how obviously you are listening to the sad children – Rutherford Seydel and Micheal Gearon Jr. And they are just that, children. I happen to think they are the ones who started this whole mess by blackmailing either Ferry or Levenson and it has backfired – or not- look at their investment now. Just let them piss off, and you do the same. I am a season ticket holder and am very much looking forward to the day these brats have nothing to do with the Atlanta Hawks. With or without Ferry, I will support this team – but not any piece of the Atlanta Spirit ownership. Good riddance.Report

  66. Sticktopolitics February 14, 2015 2:41 pm

    @mariasaporta what happened to the article criticizing Koonin disbandment of team ambassadors?Report

  67. Sticktopolitics February 14, 2015 2:44 pm

    You and your buds – https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BXWQJB_IYAA1u0W.jpgReport

  68. Sticktopolitics February 14, 2015 2:52 pm

    @mariasaporta what happened to the article also citing Dortch support of said children (and one SR who is the reason JR is anything)…. hmmm… not hosted here any more… 

    Racial tension has permeated the Atlanta Hawks organization during the leadership of Danny Ferry, according to Tommy Dortch, a leading African-American businessman in Atlanta.

    And it’s not just Wilkins. Three basketball greats have recently passed away — Walt Bellamy (November, 2013), Lou Hudson (April, 2014) and Danny Roundfield (August, 2012) – all receiving virtually no recognition from the Atlanta Hawks.
    “ When the great Walt Bellamy died, I heard nothing from the organization,” Dortch said. “When the sweet Lou Hudson died, I heard nothing. And when the great Danny Roundfield died, Danny who despite being hurt, kept playing, you heard nothing from the organization.”

    Dortch, however, only had positive things to say about the Atlanta team owners — Rutherford Seydel, Michael Gearon Jr. and his father, Michael Gearon Sr.Report

  69. Hawks Fan February 14, 2015 5:21 pm

    It must of stung a little that a former colleague of yours at the Constitution called your article “amusing” and essentially called you a pawn.  Your story is so one sided it’s hard to believe that anyone takes you seriously.  How about the fact that Greg Popovich, the most respected coach in the NBA who coached Danny and hired him as an executive in the Spurs organization said in a recent article,”If I were starting an organization, I wouldn’t hesitate in any way to hire Danny Ferry. And you can quote me on that,”  Or how about the fact that every player on the Hawks team that has been asked about Danny says that they would welcome him back.

    You were obviously spoon fed this article.  Why don’t you write about the real story here. How some Atlanta Hawks owners used race and racism for their own egos and gain. Journalism 101, focus on who has the most to gain.  Of course you won’t write that article. This is just lazy journalism. The Atlanta that you purport to love so much deserves a little more Woodward and Bernstein and a little less Laurel and Hardy.Report

  70. Longtime Hawks Fan February 15, 2015 11:21 am

    Maria, I enjoy your newsletter but I am afraid you may have gotten out of your depth droving into the world of sports journalism. Maybe it would be best to stick to areas that you understand better. Who besides Tommy Dortch supports this one sided view of Danny Ferry and his role in the Hawks organization?Report

  71. Reinvent_ED February 15, 2015 6:06 pm

    I agree with Longtime Hawks Fan .  Maria, you’re taking a biased perspective and a biased source to pen this post.  One person’s POV does not mean it’s legitimate.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Dorsch is tight with the Atlanta Spirit brain trust including Michael Gearon Jr who is the main reason why the Hawks got into this mess in the first place. There is so much more to this story, Maria.

    Danny Ferry constructed this roster.   It doesn’t matter whether he tried to trade one piece at the end of last season.  Do you even know who else was in the deal??  Do you???

    Danny Ferry has been exiled for months.   For Dorsch to be unwilling to give Ferry another chance shows the man’s lack of compassion.   If Ferry has tried to rebuild his relationship with the African American community, and if the community is willing to accept him back, then what is wrong with second chances?  

    I’m sorry, Maria, but while I have no misgivings about Ferry being banished as a disciplinary action, it is irresponsible journalism to take the word of one individual and deduce that his perspective is accurate.  Irregardless of Ferry’s insensitive, racially divisive remarks, the man built the roster and hired the coach.   The system is working, and Ferry deserves a great deal of credit, along with Coach Bud of course.Report

  72. Reinvent_ED February 15, 2015 6:14 pm

    @Brazilian Hawk absolutely correct.  The real problem is Michael Gearon Jr. And the sad thing is that the Atlanta Spirit is going to profit more than handsomely from the sale.   Why?  Because the value has increased thanks in large part to the work of Danny Ferry and Coach Bud.Report

  73. Baker February 15, 2015 10:40 pm

    Another FWIW: A reminder that Maria did say in one of her comments: “I have literally talked to a dozen or more folks who have been integrally involved with the Hawks and know the situation inside out.  Many are not interested in being quoted – some openly admit a fear of retribution – just in case Danny Ferry does get his job back.”Report

  74. mariasaporta February 16, 2015 3:04 am

    Dear readers, 
    For starters, I love an active debate and discussion.  That said, I have been surprised how many of you think I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing anything about sports. I have been covering the business related to sports for decades. 
    I covered the building of the Georgia Dome (when Rankin Smith was trying to pull it off as a private venture); the demolition of the Omni Coliseum and the building of Philips Arena (from when Stan Kasten said he was moving the Hawks to the suburbs and Ted Turner stopped those plans); from the 1996 Olympics; the Atlanta Braves; the Atlanta Falcons plans to tear down and rebuild a new stadium and all the issues related to leadership in Atlanta and Georgia. 
    Of all of Atlanta’s professional sports teams, the one I have loved the most is the Atlanta Hawks – even though I loved covering the adventures of the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s.  I really do miss Ted Turner as the owner of the Braves (they wouldn’t be moving to Cobb) and the Hawks. 
    Also, I’m the journalist who broke the story – getting the exclusive interview with Arthur Blank and Taylor Smith – when the Atlanta Falcons were sold.
    So I really do care about what happens to the Atlanta Hawks.  And it is wonderful that Coach Bud has been able to implement his recipe of team basketball with a self-less group of talented players. I am glad that Danny Ferry is not coming back. Now I hope that whoever buys the team will nurture the Atlanta Hawks and help it be a championship team for years. And I also hope that the new ownership team will include Atlantans and African-Americans. 
    After what we went through with Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry, we deserve a harmonious era that parallels the kind of team spirit that Coach Bud has created on the floor.
    And I hope we can rediscover that harmony among readers (and me) at SaportaReport. 🙂
    On that note, I’m going to bed.

  75. mariasaporta February 16, 2015 3:14 am

    DebAz mariasaporta EveryLastWord Both.Report

  76. Reinvent_ED February 16, 2015 9:25 am

    mariasaporta Maria,  I have read your stories for years and I know how much you
    care about this city, particularly in your columns about the nonprofit
    community. As such, we have come to expect a high level of
    journalistic quality from you as well.  Unfortunately, this story fell
    far short in not only investigative journalism standards, but in basic
    knowledge of the business of sports.    I know full well that Danny
    Ferry is not the cause of the problem before us, and for Mr. Dortch to
    go on record making the statements he did is very tragic.   Anyone who
    knows about the dysfunctional Atlanta Spirit group knows what happened
    here, and how this was largely orchestrated by the Atlanta faction of
    the ownership group.   Ferry was certainly in the wrong, but to make the
    statement that Ferry’s absence is the reason for the Hawks good
    fortunes this season is categorically false.
    The folks
    who read your stories care about what you write; otherwise, they would
    be reading posts elsewhere.   We all appreciate spirited, civil
    discourse.  However, when one person’s biased point of view is taken for
    the truth without any corroboration, we will voice our displeasure.  
    When the journalistic quality reaches the standard we have all come to
    expect from The Saporta Report, this commenter has no doubt that the
    harmony will return in droves.Report

  77. Hawk no more February 16, 2015 11:11 am

    mariasaporta  You write “I have been surprised by how many of you think I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing about sports. I have been covering the business related to sports for decades..” I don’t think that is the point. Your column and your subsequent posts seem to be in the vein of “I know what I’m talking about so believe me.” Many have questioned your objectivity and bias. You only quote one individual but later write that it is okay because you talked with others. I understand that some employees may not want to be quoted. However, that fear should not include Gearon. Did you talk with him or not? You have also not addressed why you chose to report only one side of the story. Once you were called out in the AJC I think a response should be made.Report

  78. Burroughston Broch February 17, 2015 8:54 am

    I suspect the driving force behind this article is money changing hands for some Thought Leadership.Report

  79. Hawks Fan February 17, 2015 6:32 pm

    Andrew Young evidently disagrees with you.
    Headline: Andrew Young: I would not have let Danny Ferry leave
    Young says he wants to see embattled Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry back with the team.
    Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence are an audio recording surfaced where he read several racially charged comments off a player scouting report.
    Young told Channel 2 sports director Zach Klein in exclusive interview that he thinks Ferry got caught in an unfair argument between owners.
    “Do you think Danny should use lose his job?” Klein asked.
    “Hell no,” Young responded.
    “You can’t make it in the world unless you play as a team. Now Atlanta has not made it up to now because we didn’t play as a team,” Young said. “He put the guys together and they are playing as a team and they are winning. They are winning better than the Hawks have won back in the days of Lenny Wilkins and Bob Petite.”
    Young said Toronto Raptors General Manager Wayne Embry, who hired Ferry in Cleveland, called him to say Ferry is getting a bad rap and asked him to help.
    Young also thinks Ferry doesn’t need to feel remorseful.
    “I mean this is nothing to apologize for. It’s like, should a surgeon feel remorseful for putting a patient in an MRI to find out what’s going on inside?” Young asked.READ: http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2014/09/08/Gearon_letter.pdfREAD: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/danny-ferry-response-letter-hawks-minority-owner/nhJZx/
    The controversy surrounding Ferry started last summer after majority owner Bruce Levenson made a public apology for an email that Levenson sent containing comments about African-American fans at Philips Arena.
    The incident drew the attention of civil rights leaders and controvesry surrounding the Hawks grew when a June conference call emerged wherehttp://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/channel-2-receives-copy-scouting-report-heart-cont/nhLpr/
    The original words in the report said, “He’s a good guy on the cover, but he’s an African. He has a little two-step in him =  says what you like to hear, but behind closed doors, he could be killing you.”
    On the call you can hear Ferry explain, “He has a storefront out front that’s beautiful and great … but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you.”
    Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence in September.
    “One of the things I know about this sport and almost every sport, all of these guys are fast. They are big, they are strong, skillful. The difference between winning and losing is usually from the neck up and if a general manager can’t go into the emotions, the motivations, the psychology of a player, we missed the boat,” Young said.
    Klein asked Young if he thinks Ferry is racist.
    “No more than I am,” Young said. “That’s a word that you cannot define ‘You are a racist’ you can’t grow up white in America without having some problems. You can’t grow up black in American without having some subtle feelings.”
    Young says if he was running the Hawks he would never have let Ferry leave.
    “Danny Ferry is too talented a guy and his life is basketball. He’s going to be general manager somewhere. I hope it’s Atlanta.”Report

  80. Hawks Fan February 17, 2015 7:29 pm

    Five months later, the Hawks acquired Kyle Korver from Chicago, and he could be headed for the best perimeter-shooting season in NBA history.
    “When I got traded to Atlanta I was coming from Chicago and I wasn’t really all that excited about it, to be honest with you. But all the people that Danny Ferry kept on bringing in, they’ve been not just good basketball people, but good people,” Korver said.
    “When I was a free agent two summers ago, I chose to come back. We had some opportunities to go to some teams that already were more established and could win, but I just really believed in what Atlanta was building and what they were doing. I could see my role in it and I just wanted to be a part of that. I never thought that it would come together this quickly.”
    Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2015/02/17/3591235/all-in-or-sit-out-nba-teams-decide.html#storylink=cpyReport

  81. Longtime Hawks Fan February 17, 2015 8:09 pm

    I am feel that Andrew Young is a more responsible and legitimate spokesman for racial harmony in the city of Atlanta than Tommy Dortsch. He also seems to understand the role that a good GM plays in the development of a NBA basketball team. How would any knowledgeable basketball fan attribute the recent success of the Atlanta Hawks to the absence of a general manager? That just doesn’t make any sense.Report

  82. EveryLastWord February 17, 2015 9:06 pm

    The Rev. Young has pronounced the benediction on this matter as far as I’m concerned.Report

  83. mariasaporta February 18, 2015 5:04 pm

    Burroughston Broch With all due respect, that is out line. My opinions are not for sale. They never have and they never will be. I have always respected your opinion, and I am offended that you would write something like that.Report

  84. mariasaporta February 18, 2015 5:05 pm

    Longtime Hawks Fan Remember, Andy Young defended John Rocker and Nike and almost every other target. That is who he is. Danny Ferry can be forgiven for what he has said. That doesn’t mean he should get his job back.Report

  85. Reinvent_ED February 18, 2015 8:04 pm

    mariasaporta Longtime Hawks Fan Young understands the importance of forgiveness and second chances.  Rocker has had third and fourth chances and he’s still a racist and anti-semite.  Ferry built this team and Atlanta should not let him build someone else’s team, which is EXACTLY what will happen.  Ferry has already paid a huge price.  If the players and other stakeholders welcome him back, then it should happen. It shouldn’t happen just because Tommy Dortsch doesn’t like him and is in bed with Michael Gearon Jr.   Don’t forget  that it was Gearon who baited Ferry by taping the conversation.  It was Gearon who wanted Ferry fired and leaked the email.  Gearon is a cancer and Atlanta can rejoice when he and the entire Atlanta Spirit brain trust is no longer the owners of the Hawks.Report

  86. Burroughston Broch February 19, 2015 1:43 am

    mariasaporta Burroughston Broch  With all due respect, methinks thou dost protest too much.
    You sell Thought Leadership Sponsored Content on this website for compensation. You support the Business Chronicle’s views for a fee with your writings. You supported the AJC’s views with your writings for years for compensation. My siblings are both professional journalists and I know how the profession works.Report

  87. EveryLastWord February 19, 2015 7:35 am

    Burroughston Broch mariasaporta While I strongly disagree with Maria’s opinion on Ferry, I don’t doubt that it is her un-bought opinion.  Like others who have followed her from AJC days, I know she calls as she sees.  There probably are many journalists whose point of view is for sale in one way or another, but it’s not the rule.  Otherwise most of what we read and listen to would be puff stuff and PR would be a much easier job.Report

  88. Hawks Fan February 19, 2015 1:57 pm

    mariasaporta Longtime Hawks Fan Does anybody else find it ironic that Maria besmirched the opinion of Andrew Young but readily accepts the opinions of the Gearon cabal?  As Jeff Schultz wrote in his article, “The problem with people like Gearon is they want you to believe they’re humble and pure and their intentions are honorable, when in fact they’re more conniving and devious than you could possibly comprehend.” Also, how does Dortch, a person with no role with the Hawks organization, know about internal trade talks unless he’s fed the information so somebody can stay behind the scenes.  Based on the info in your article it would seem that Schultz is right about youReport

  89. Not Gearon water carrier February 19, 2015 3:49 pm

    mariasaporta Longtime Hawks Fan  Ms. Saporta will simply not own up to a biased, one sided smear article. So be it. It is or was her reputationReport

  90. Burroughston Broch February 19, 2015 6:25 pm

    EveryLastWord Burroughston Broch mariasaporta  Most of what we read and listen to is puff stuff and PR is an easier job.Report

  91. mariasaporta February 19, 2015 10:32 pm

    Burroughston Broch mariasaporta Are you suggesting that all journalists should work for no money? If so, we would have even fewer journalists than we do now.
    I can honestly tell you that the Atlanta Business Chronicle pays me to write newsy stories important to Atlanta. The AJC did not dictate what I wrote in my columns stories. A firewall existed between the editorial and advertising departments. The same is true at the ABC. 
    At SaportaReport, which is an online publication with my name on it, I have done my best to separate the editorial content from the paid content – clearly identifying which is which.  As much as possible, I delegate the Thought Leadership and advertising negotiations to others on the SaportaReport team.
    It is no coincidence that our coverage overlaps with our Thought Leader topics.
    We have purposefully sought out Thought Leaders who we believe are compatible with the content on the site – people or organizations that are natural partners because they care about our community.  But all of them also understand that our writers have editorial freedom on their columns and stories. 
    Our only commitment to them is the same one we have made to you. We will do our best to provide accurate information and insightful commentary on what is happening in our region. You may not always agree, which I know you don’t, but at least we hope we have provided you food for thought. 
    But what we won’t give you are stories that have been bought and sold.Report

  92. Burroughston Broch February 20, 2015 5:02 pm

    mariasaporta Burroughston Broch 
    “Are you suggesting that all journalists should work for no money?”

    No. I watched my siblings do enough of that in recent years.
    “It is no coincidence that our coverage overlaps with our Thought Leader topics.”
    And your Thought Leaders appear on your website at no cost?Report

  93. Hawks Fan February 21, 2015 10:19 pm

    Burroughston Broch EveryLastWord mariasaporta I assume that most of us who are responding to this article found Maria’s website because of the Schultz article. My advice at this point is to let it go.   Maria has stated her opinion and we have stated ours. While I doubt Maria received any largesse for this article, I’m willing to believe that she followed this story as a favor and never expected the  blow back she has received. My problem has always been that journalism should be about truth and fairness. In this article i have found neither.  I don’t have to agree with Maria but I want to believe that the person who wrote it has done their homework and has an “informed” perspective.  So I while I don’t believe Maria was paid for this article, I do believe that she paid a far higher price in terms of her credibility.  Of all the people who found her website via the Schultz article, I can believe that none of us will ever come back to it. Nor will anyone we talk to.Report

  94. Longtime Hawks Fan February 25, 2015 9:20 pm

    You should forgive Danny Ferry because he made a mistake and he apologized for his error. You rehire him because he has assembled one of the best teams in the NBA and we need his continued leadership to remain successful.Report

  95. CobbBraves April 23, 2015 8:34 am

    mariasaporta would love a response here… still waiting…Report

  96. no firness June 22, 2015 2:42 pm

    I find it interesting that despite claims of fairness, Ms. Saporta is silent when the A&B report completely cleared Danny Ferry, when the Hawks would not release the report for months because it cleared him, and she refuses to acknowledge that it was all casued by Gearon and his small minded cronies. Even the letter from the Hawks to Ferry stated that it was caused by the owners. Maybe Ms. Saporta will post another hatchet job that is ghost written by Michael Gearon. All credibility is gone.Report

  97. atlman May 14, 2018 1:40 pm

    Does anyone care to update this article? Including Ms. Saporta? Since Ferry has been fired:

    A) the team’s performance began to decline IMMEDIATELY
    B) the team is now again a losing franchise with no real prospects for improving (the draft hasn’t been reliable in years and Atlanta continues to be shunned by free agents)
    C) the coach who was supposedly the real reason for the success has been fired after years of bad personnel moves
    D) confronted with losing money due to declining attendance because of the losing team, the Hawks were sold to an out-of-town owner
    E) in order to keep said owner from moving the team, the city had to spend $142 million (at least as the total deal will cost $1 billion) on a redevelopment scheme that will – using the logic of Saporta and others who helped get Ferry fired – continue to gentrify the city and drive lower income residents out. It wasn’t enough, however, to keep the Hawks from relocating vital operations from the city to Brookhaven.

    I wonder if the author and all of those who agreed with her are going to revisit this, especially E). But I won’t hold my breath.Report


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.