One year later: Eight changes to Hawks since controversy engulfed franchise

June 25, 2105 Atlanta:  The Atlanta Hawks new principal owner Tony Ressler and partner Grant Hill met with Atlanta Journal Constitution editors, managers and reporters Thursday June 25, 2015. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
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June 25, 2105 Atlanta: The Atlanta Hawks new principal owner Tony Ressler and partner Grant Hill met with Atlanta Journal Constitution editors, managers and reporters Thursday June 25, 2015. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
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The Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time last season with the help of Paul Millsap (4). The unrestricted free agent signed a three-year deal to remain with the team this summer.

Sept. 7, 2014 – a day that will live in Hawks’ infamy.

One year ago, the fortunes of the Atlanta Hawks franchise took the most dramatic of turns. It started with an announcement from the team that controlling owner Bruce Levenson would sell his interest in the franchise following the discovery of an e-mail from two years earlier that contained racist comments about the fan base and basketball operations.

Today, the franchise looks much different from a new ownership to a new management structure to new colors and uniforms. The 12-month journey was filled with painful moments as the organization navigated its issues on a national stage. Through it all, the Hawks produced the most remarkable on-court run in franchise history as it won a team record 60 regular-season games, including an undefeated month of January, advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time and had four players and a coaching staff represent at the NBA All-Star Game.

Here’s a look at eight ways the franchise has changed in the past year:

1. Ownership

June 25, 2105 Atlanta:  The Atlanta Hawks new principal owner Tony Ressler and partner Grant Hill met with Atlanta Journal Constitution editors, managers and reporters Thursday June 25, 2015. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Tony Ressler

Following Levenson’s announcement, his Washington, D.C.-based partners agreed to sell their stakes in the team as well. That was followed by the rest of the ownership groups, based in Atlanta and New York, agreeing to put up their stakes for sale as well so that the entire organization could start fresh. On April 22, an agreement was reached with a group led by billionaire Tony Ressler to purchase the franchise and Philips Arena. Ressler, along with Grant Hill, Rick Schnall, Sara Blakely and Jesse Itzler were officially announced on June 22.The group has several others including former owners Steven Price and Michael Gearon Jr.

2. Ferry buyout

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Danny Ferry

On the day of Levenson’s announcement, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported that the internal investigation that discovered his email was prompted by racially insensitive remarks that general manager Danny Ferry had made during a June conference call with ownership and management. Ferry was to keep his position but be disciplined at the recommendation of the independent investigator. However, just days later Ferry took or was placed on an indefinite leave of absence. He would not return. The saga included the AJC obtaining the portion of the audio from the meeting and a copy of the background report from which Ferry said he read when he made the comments about free-agent target Luol Deng. Following the dramatic season with the team he helped build, a buyout agreement was reached on June 19th and announced three days later ending his tenure.

3. New colors

(Atlanta Hawks)

New uniforms

The day following the press conference to introduce new ownership, the Hawks held another gathering in the same room at Philips Arena. This one introduced a new color scheme and uniforms. In a dramatic rebranding, the team opted out of red and blue for a palette of Torch Red, Georgia Granite Gray and Volt Green. The uniforms will also include a new font, a feather pattern and socks. The jerseys and shorts can also be mixed and matched.

4. Budenholzer, Wilcox promotions

With Ferry gone, the Hawks started rebuilding their basketball operations staff with two promotions on June 30. Head coach Mike Budenholzer, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, was elevated to President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach. Wes Wilcox, the assistant under Ferry, was promoted to General Manager.

5. Millsap stays, Carroll goes

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DeMarre Carroll

The Hawks hit free agency on July 1 with two starters as unrestricted free agents. Paul Millsap would re-sign to a three-year, $59 million deal. That left no money for the team to retain DeMarre Carroll, who would sign a four-year, $60 million contract with the Raptors. There were other roster changes as Elton Brand and John Jenkins were not retained and Pero Antic returned to play in Europe. The Hawks traded for Tiago Splitter, obtained Tim Hardaway Jr. in a draft-night trade, signed Justin Holiday in free agency and signed former second-round pick Edy Tavares. Veteran Jason Richardson, former second-round pick Lamar Patterson and undrafted free agent Terran Petteway will compete in training camp for a possible roster spot.

6. Front office makeover

The team has yet to announce several other hires to its basketball operations staff under Budenholzer and Wilcox. The AJC reported on Aug. 1 that the team has brought aboard Michael Blackstone as assistant general manager and John Treloar as director of player personnel and the promoted of Jeff Peterson to director of scouting. There will be several other lesser changes to the management staff.

7. Executive makeover

The Hawks announced two changes to its executive management on Aug. 4 with the hiring of Andrew Saltzman as Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer and the moving of Andrew Steinberg to a newly created position of Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer. Steinberg’s position will be tasked with several projects including a new practice facility, reimaging of Philips Arena and pursuing an NBA Development League franchise as a Hawks affiliate. Several months after the controversy, the Hawks hired Nazinga Shaw as Chief Diversity Officer.

8. Athletic performance makeover

On Aug. 26, the AJC reported changes to the team’s athletic performance staff with the hirings of Keke Lyles and executive director, Art Horne as head trainer and Michael Roncarati as director of rehabilitation. Lyles and Roncarati joined the team from the NBA champion Warriors. Two days later, the team announced the changes that included Chris Chase as Athletic Performance Coach and that Scottie Parker would remain as an assistant trainer.


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