Let us now praise courageous ownership — NOT!!!!
After leaving him twisting in the wind for the better part of a year, Atlanta Hawks management finally brought Danny Ferry — the team’s suspended general manager and the architect of its recent success — in from the cold.
Then they dumped him.
With approval of the sale of the franchise to a new group of owners a foregone conclusion, the old, dysfunctional group, known as much for its incessant infighting as the performance of its team on the court, bought out the remaining years of Ferry’s contract for an undisclosed sum.
Let’s hope the group did right by him with the terms of the buyout, at least in this final act, since it seemingly did everything it could — until this point — to crap all over a man who made a mistake, paid for it, and certainly deserved better than he got.
Perhaps he is the lucky one, after all; lucky as hell to finally be done with such a back-biting, continually bickering and often embarrassing bunch of so-called leaders, managers and investors.
First, Ferry should pinch himself to make sure he’s not dreaming, that the long nightmare really is over. Then, he should take his money and run like hell; get as far away from his former employer — The Atlanta Spirit — as he possibly can.
I have a feeling, though, that he will have the last laugh. I have no doubt that, sooner or later, another National Basketball Association franchise will realize the value of this man as a basketball mind and take advantage of what he has to offer.
There is no doubt that a major reason for the Atlanta Hawks’ success this season — winning a franchise record 60 regular season games, then advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time — was Danny Ferry, his business acumen, talent recognition, negotiating skills and personnel moves.
Mike Budenholzer certainly proved his mettle in his first season as a head coach in the NBA, and won the coach-of-the-year award. But, without the franchise-changing decisions Ferry made, and the team he put on the floor for Budenholzer to coach, this season would not have been such a triumph.
Let’s review what got Ferry banished to Siberia in the first place:
Before the regular season began, it was revealed that Ferry made derogatory and racially insensitive remarks about free-agent basketball player Luol Deng, who is African, during a conference call with members of Hawks ownership and management. A member of the team’s ownership group demanded that Ferry be fired, which set off an investigation that brought to light even more incendiary remarks by controlling owner Bruce Levenson that cast aspersions on the team’s fans and criticized game operations, including the choice of music and other promotions used to boost team attendance.
Shortly thereafter, Levenson announced he would sell his interest in the team. It was also announced that Ferry was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team, a decision Hawks management inferred was Ferry’s decision. Ferry, however, recently revealed that it was management — not he — who made the decision he should take the leave.
The investigation probed Ferry’s comments and motivation, and was conducted by an outside law firm. Weeks went by, then months. The investigation cleared Ferry of any racist motives and any intention of doing any harm to Deng. Even though he should have exercised better judgment, the investigation showed he was merely passing on comments included in a report that was done by an outside scout.
The punishment did not fit the crime. It would have been more fitting for the Hawks to fine Ferry, maybe suspend him for a month — maybe — then let him get back to his job and share in the great success he had done so much to create. Instead, Hawks management left him slowly, agonizingly twisting in the frigid wind.
The more time he spent in icy purgatory, the more it appeared to the community that he must be a bad old racist guy, when that was far from the truth. What is worse, the team didn’t release the results of the investigation of Ferry’s comments until after his bosses had already decided his fate. Releasing that information sooner might have softened some of the community opposition against him.
No, management decided to take the cowardly route: Just leave him hanging by his thumbs and let the new owners decide whether to cut him down, or cut him loose — whoever the new ownership would be, and whenever it took over.
I’m sure the old owners group thought that was an appropriate business decision.
But it was a coward’s choice. The group dodged the opportunity to do what is right, to keep a good man, who gave so much of himself to his job, from being miscast as a villain, as a vile racist.
If Danny Ferry is a racist, then I’m the president of North Korea — and I’ve never set foot in Pyongyang. I don’t even have Dennis Rodman’s phone number.