2015 was a record-breaking season for the Atlanta Hawks and it came in the midst of one of the biggest controversy's to ever rock the franchise. The team rose to new heights amidst the chaos and appears to be poised for a bright future. Here is part one of our look back at the Top 10 stories for the Atlanta Hawks this season.
10. Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year, finishes third in Executive of the year voting
Mike Budenholzer's arrival in Atlanta ushered in a new era of Hawks basketball. His impact on and off the court has been paramount and signing him to a long-term deal was priority No. 1 for new ownership. He was named as the NBA's Coach of the Year guiding a Hawks team that many predicted to struggle to make the playoffs to the top of the Eastern Conference Standings. That he did so in the midst of a full blown off the court controversy just cements his stature as a leader even further. Budenholzer is already ninth on the franchise's list for career victories with 119 and appears poised to become one of, if not the winningest coach in franchise history before he is finished.
In a strange twist, Budenholzer's name was submitted for the NBA's Executive of the Year award due to the leave of absence and controversy surrounding soon to be former General Manager Danny Ferry. Budenholzer finished third in the voting and his dual role was a precursor of things to come.
9. Hawks rebrand with new uniforms, court design and primary and secondary logos
The end of 2015 marked a new beginning for the franchise as they attempted to embrace their history but to put a lot of it squarely in the rearview mirror. The first part in that journey included a remake of the team's appearance. New primary and secondary logos which was a play off of the iconic Pac Man logo the franchise utilized in the 80s. Second was a new innovative uniform design and a refreshing of the team's colors. The old Navy Blue dominated scheme was replaced by Torch Red, Georgia Granite Grey and Volt Green. The playing court at Philips Arena soon followed with a refresh of its own as has many of the areas in and around the arena.
At every step of the rebranding, the Hawks were quick to point out some aspect that was embracing the franchise's past. However, the message was pretty clear that this was now a new beginning for the franchise.
8. Dikembe Mutombo inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, has jersey retired by the Hawks
Dikembe Mutombo took his place among basketball's best when he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. The Hawks quickly followed suit and announced a plan to retire Mutombo's No. 55 jersey into the Philips Arena rafters. Mutombo spent a short time in Atlanta but his on and off the court contributions made him a worthy candidate for this recognition.
The ceremony took place at halftime of the November 24th matchup between the Hawks and the Celtics. Afterwards, Mutombo called the city of Atlanta home and professed his love and his appreciation on the city and the franchise for bestowing him with such a great honor.
7. Hawks unveil statue honoring team legend Dominique Wilkins
Although plans were announced in 2014, the Hawks officially unveiled a statue honoring legend Dominique Wilkins in a private ceremony at Philips Arena. The ceremony was an elaborate affair with many people from the team's past along with city officials taking the microphone to talk about Wilkins impact not only on the Hawks and the NBA but also his impact on the city of Atlanta. In many ways, this ceremony was the last hoorah for the Atlanta portion of the team's former ownership group. Michael Gearon Jr was a principle figure in the event and was one of the driving forces behind the statue.
The statue was placed in its permanent place outside the arena two nights later and Wilkins was honored again at halftime of the team's matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks took the floor that night Pac Man era throw back jerseys in what was one of the best home court experiences of the season. Atlanta capped off the evening with a big 106-97 win over the Cavaliers.
6. Hawks retool following record-breaking season
Fresh off of a 60 win season and the franchise's first Eastern Conference Finals appearance put the Hawks scrambling to try and keep its core group together. However, the offseason officially began with the annual June Draft which was highly anticipated due to a leftover from the Joe Johnson trade that allowed Atlanta to swap draft positions with the Brooklyn Nets. For a stretch, it appeared that Atlanta might win the East's regular season crown and capture a lottery pick at the same time. Brooklyn ultimately rallied to win the 8th seed and the Hawks were left with the 15th pick.
It was a disappointing night for many as the Hawks immediately traded down to No. 19 and then dealt that pick to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. The deal has failed to produce so far and left a lot of the fan base searching for answers.
As free agency arrived, the team was faced with the impossible task of trying to secure two of its key players in Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll. The short two-year contracts that Atlanta secured Millsap and Carroll in the summer of 2014 were initially celebrated but they ultimately came back to haunt the team because it left them without full bird rights. Big seasons from Millsap and Carroll put them in demand and the Hawks ultimately had to make a choice between the two.
Millsap was quickly offered a max deal by the Orlando Magic as free agency opened, but he ultimately agreed to return to the Hawks signing a three-year deal worth approximately $60 million. That left Atlanta with some salary cap room but enough to get in the bidding for Carroll who ultimately signed with the Toronto Raptors. Atlanta then used its available cap space to help fortify its frontcourt by absorbing the contract of Tiago Splitter in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs.