The Atlanta Hawks made a few announcements on Wednesday evening. CEO Steve Koonin presided over the unveiling of a throwback uniform and a new court design before taking the assembled crowd through a preview of what is to come with the newly renovated Philips Arena before it opens in October. As you might expect, it was a festive atmosphere at Terminal West in Atlanta but, after some of the pomp and circumstance slowed, NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow sat down for an interesting interview with Koonin, GM Travis Schlenk and principal owner Tony Ressler.
While the entire thing is worth a viewing (and available on the team’s Facebook page), Ressler left no doubt as to how the team’s leadership, headlined by himself, views its “job” moving forward.
“We are enormously proud of all the things that we’ve built,” Ressler said when prompted about a laundry list of accomplishments since taking over the franchise. “But I think what I’ve learned is that, until our fan base, until this community, until all of us fully appreciate that our job is to win a championship, none of that actually means (anything). We can be proud of it, and we are... but this is our 50th anniversary and this is a team that hasn’t won a championship in those 50 years. If there’s anything that any of us have to say about it, that’s going to change.”
Given that the team is in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, expectations for the 2018-19 season don’t include the pursuit of a championship in the near term. With that said, Ressler left no doubt as to the mandate coming from the top and Schlenk, as part of the same interview, openly discussed the rationale behind his decision to kick-start the rebuild upon arrival.
It has to be noted that, in some form, the vast majority of professional sports owners deliver quotes featuring something approaching what Ressler said at some point in their respective tenures. Still, it is noteworthy that, even as the team is widely projected to miss the postseason for the second consecutive season, the big-picture goals have not changed. In fact, the vocalized mandate presented on Wednesday left no room for the simple acceptance of playoff-level competitiveness.
Tony Ressler, by his own words, views the organization’s central goal as bringing an NBA championship to Atlanta for the first time. That will please a lot of fans in the short term and, if nothing else, it will be interesting to see how the franchise’s brain trust approaches the future, both in the short and long term, through that prism.