Atlanta Hawks majority owner Tony Ressler appeared on the latest episode of NBATV’s Open Court series, offering his insight on a wide range of topics in the league. He sat on the panel alongside fellow owners Mark Cuban, Dan Gilbert, Joe Lacob, Steve Ballmer, and Jeanie Buss. Ressler was refreshingly candid about his inexperience in the job, the various aspects of it that have surprised him throughout his two years in charge of the Hawks, and his relationship with the people he’s hired to run the team.
Ressler was open about the fact that the team will be taking a step back, revealing what has been apparent through the team’s actions this summer: “My job is a little different than Joe [Lacob]’s job because, it is in fact to win, but maybe not as immediate an approach.” This comes in stark contrast to an interview Ressler gave near the end of last season, in which he was adamant that the team would keep Paul Millsap and continue to try to win as many games as possible.
Ressler also admitted that he wasn’t quite prepared for how difficult it is to instill a championship culture in the team, saying, “I did not appreciate the amount of time and effort that is obviously required, and you get to see that when you see great franchises that have build championship cultures. We have a bit of work to do, but we have a path where we know what to do and we plan to go after it.”
When asked about the hiring process, Ressler was honest about how he views his relationship with new president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk: “I don't allocate an enormous amount of importance to how my GM gets along with me. I consider the vision: ‘Do I follow what he says? Do I get what he's trying to do? And do I understand where he's trying to take our franchise?’”
He also showed an understanding that the previous roster needed a makeover, as the team was getting older but wasn’t in a place to really contend for a championship: “We've been in the playoffs for ten straight years. Atlanta hasn't won a championship in 49 [years]. Our job is to try to win a championship. We saw a team that was getting older and not getting better, so we think getting younger--we don't use the "rebuild" term--and still being incredibly competitive, playing hard but being young and fun. Getting younger is a method by which we can take hopefully a small step back in an effort to take a huge step forward.”
Ressler took over ownership of the Hawks two years ago and has put forth a decidedly mixed record thus far, but has turned things around tremendously in the past few months after hiring Travis Schlenk and signing off on a rebuild, even if he won’t use that word publicly. The owner is the most important part of a team and having an owner who wants the team to be competitive but also realizes what it takes to win a championship is all the fans can ask for. Ballmer, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, put it best: “The owner's the only guy you can count on being around in five years. You look at the longevity of people in this world, the owner is the person who is gonna be around. So who has to make the commitment to the organization about what it wants to be and why you should be there? It's on the owner.”