ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst published a detailed story on Tuesday about the fall of the Atlanta Hawks' former ownership group. In some ways, it feels strange to be discussing this now. The team has moved on with new ownership and none of the principle parties involved in the controversy remain. However, the article did fill in some gaps in the story.
One such piece of information was that at some point before the start of last season, Mike Budenholzer met with Ferry and told him that he should resign.
Budenholzer very much owed his job to Ferry. His former Spurs colleague had pleaded with Levenson that the Gregg Popovich assistant was the man for the position. Yet Budenholzer felt Ferry should resign, lest the Hawks be subsumed in disruption when training camp opened, and he made his wishes known in a heartfelt conversation with Ferry and Levenson at that time.
Windhorst was a guest on Zach Lowe's podcast this week and talked about the article and the situation surrounding the Hawks last season. Lowe asked him about the meeting between Budenholzer and Ferry and said that some around the league wondered if that was a power play move for Budenholzer. With Ferry away on leave, Budenholzer was put in charge of all basketball operations on an interim basis.
Windhorst goes on to discuss Budenholzer's initial interview with Bruce Levenson that did not go well, and how it took a consistent effort from Ferry, along with a phone call from Gregg Popovich, to convince Levenson to grant another interview. He points out that Ferry was adamant that the team hire Budenholzer and wraps up the discussion by saying there was a point where Ferry asked for Budenholzer's support and the response he got was that he needed to resign.
From a personal standpoint, I don't agree with Windhorst's assumption of Bud's motives. Coming into training camp last summer, there was a genuine fear that this event would be a major distraction for the team. A perfect example of this was a CNN crew at media day that questioned each player on Danny Ferry. Not basketball, not about the upcoming season, but solely on their feelings about Ferry's comments. Had Ferry returned, events like this would have become more common place.
In my opinion, if Budenholzer told Ferry that he needed to resign, then he did it in an effort to protect his team and his players. At that point, there were no guarantees for anyone involved. The team was for sale and Budenholzer was in the second year of a three-year contract. Given the circumstances, new ownership could have opted to start over and everyone was aware of the uncertainty.
The fact that this did not become a distraction is a testament to those players, Budenholzer and Steve Koonin who did a good job insulating everyone from it. No doubt winning helped, and considering the Hawks were able to have a record breaking season despite the controversy was a minor miracle unto itself. It certainly wasn't easy and it probably wouldn't have been possible had Ferry returned to the job at some point during the season.
If you are interested in filling in the gaps of the story then you need to give the rest of the podcast a listen. Windhorst and Lowe give further insight into Michael Gearon, Ferry and the key element that most teams overlook when trying to mimic the San Antonio Spurs.