What a week. It ended with the Atlanta Hawks, and their GM Danny Ferry, being pounded with questions about the origin of the insensitive words about Miami forward Luol Deng, announcing a number of items that they hope will begin the healing from this episode
A quick rundown of what the Hawks did and my own commentary:
1. Steve Koonin announced Danny Ferry requested, and Koonin accepted, a leave of absence to sort things out.
The announcement, with a contrite statement from Ferry afterwards, comes after the scouting report in question finally surfaced and provided some proof that the words Ferry spoke on the now infamous conference call were not completely his own.
With this important bit of evidence finally out in the open, for Ferry to step out of the light for a while and let things calm down is a terrific idea. When Riley Cooper of the Eagles got into trouble for his insensitive comments at a Kenny Chesney concert, the team kept him away for a number of days while tensions cooled. One year later, Cooper signed a five year deal to stay in Philadelphia.
Not everyone has forgiven Cooper, but enough have to continue his employment without incident with the Eagles, so if Ferry does decide he wants to continue to be the GM of the Hawks, certainly not ruled in light of the leave of absence rather than resigning, there is now a path to do so.
2. Koonin announces a Chief Diversity Officer
A trend in Fortune 500 companies, the CDO's charter, according to this report, "is to strategize, structure, and maintain a multiethnic workforce within a company. Chief diversity officers are often facilitators of major changes in the diversity of an institution's makeup in order to make the business more culturally varied and more appealing to workers from different ethnic backgrounds. A chief diversity officer has a thorough understanding of current laws regarding inclusion, equal opportunity, and discrimination and utilizes this understanding to ensure a company adheres to the appropriate legal guidelines."
Seems like a perfectly reasonable decision by Koonin to engage with this kind of position, especially in light of the community leaders wanting to have some meaningful discussions with the team in this area.
3. The team will remain in Atlanta, despite being sold
We've already seen some good articles, like this one at Sonics Rising, explaining why the Hawks aren't likely to be bought and moved, but it's good to hear some very confident words coming from the CEO on the matter. Now the focus turns to who that buyer might be and is it someone Hawks fans can rally around.
4. Coach Bud will take over oversight of basketball operations
Lest we think someone else could weasel their way in, the Hawks are making sure no furniture gets moved in the house while Ferry is away for however long. With the announcement of Elton Brand signing, there really isn't anything else for the Hawks to do, roster-wise and the training camp invites are probably already decided on and anything else that would need to be done in that regard can certainly be handled by Wes Wilcox or Budenholzer.
I was very honest earlier in this crazy week in that I couldn't see a clear path for Danny Ferry to remain if things were left as they were. Since then the scouting report emerged with the context of the offending remarks included and the Hawks have taken some strong steps. So the fog has somewhat cleared and the path for things to remain and rebuild and it looks like I will wrong about the blocked path for Ferry, which I will be very pleased to be called a gun-jumper if we can resume the growth of this franchise and culture.
It doesn't mean anything is final, so we will wait and see how the community is in this indefinite leave and if Ferry wants to even be a part of this. Seems like he would want to finish what was excellently started and the decision for the leave of absence rather than quitting would seem to signal the same, but I'm not about to call another shot in this chaotic maze of a situation.
The Hawks did what they had to do and Steve Koonin has done what CEOs do, lead. It was Koonin who bravely stuck his neck way out and was the face and voice for his employees and employers. It's textbook leadership stuff and Koonin may just end up in an even more positive place among the people of the city after all is said and done in this matter.
I said it was the Hawks turn to move, and they did, strongly. I hope it's enough to get back on track and push the franchise forward again.
Oh, and training camp starts for most team in 2-3 weeks. No rush.
As I was working on this piece, this bit of Twittery emerged. It's for you.
An open letter from CEO Steve Koonin: pic.twitter.com/2HEhh578j3— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) September 13, 2014