Q and A with Hawks owner Tony Ressler: ‘I didn’t think I should delay being better’

Hawks owner Tony Ressler (right) and general manager Wes Wilcox (left) confer before a game in 2015. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

I’m back after a short hiatus. For those of you who have not heard, I had a bit of a health scare last week. I also had a family engagement that required my attention. Both affected my reporting and writing on the Hawks’ front-office situation Wednesday through Friday. I have to give a huge thank you to Tim Tucker for jumping in and helping in such mighty way. I have been cleared to get back to work on a limited basis so ….

Here is the exclusive interview I did with Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler on Friday morning before the team confirmed the front-office changes. I thought it was important to post the entire transcript.

Ressler: Changes meant to make Hawks ‘be better’

I will continue to post my Five Questions With series with the remaining players following their exit interviews.

And there will undoubtedly be more news so stay tuned.

INTERVIEW WITH TONY RESSLER

Q. What are the exact changes that are being made to the Hawks front office?

A. We are moving Bud from president of basketball operations to head coach, head coach with a loud voice in personnel, but a head coach only. Then we are moving Wes from general manager to be a special adviser to ownership. And we are going to do a search for a great GM.



Q. Two weeks ago we met and you were confident in how the structure was working. What changed?

A. I had and have an enthusiast view of where this team is going and where we need to be going, as you might imagine. I do think both Bud and Wes are really talented, good guys. By the way, we did have at the end of the end of the season, shall we call it, thorough, exhaustive discussions with each of them. In their defense, all recognized and recommended that we could be better and that these changes would help make us better.

Q. To be blunt, was it a matter of they couldn’t work together?

A. I don’t think so. I think it was a matter of could we bring in a new GM, a new body, a new adviser, a new thinker, a new professional who would make us better. The simple answer is I think we can. That is what we are going to try to do.”

Tony Ressler hopes to hire GM before NBA Draft

Q.What will the search process be like? How long do you want it to take? There is a draft coming up, do you want them in place before?

A. Let’s not kid ourselves, we want to get the best person we can get. We are not going to be rushed and we are not going to accept being rushed. What we are going to do is evaluate everyone imaginable. We do expect to be very thorough in the process. We have confidence in the decision-making process and the people we have here but we think we can be better and that’s why we are making this hire.

Q. What will Wes’ role be specifically?

A. We see him being a senior advisor to ownership for whatever we are asking about. We do believe Wes has done a good job. Wes has good insight into players. Wes has drafted some interesting and high-quality players. We have 11 picks in the next three years. We have people like Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince and Tim Hardaway (Jr.), all of who fill the bill of being good and young. We are thrilled with some of the things Wes has done and we expect him to be an adviser to ownership but let’s not kid ourselves we are bringing in a general manager we believe can help this process, help get us closer to the obvious objective of how to be a championship-caliber franchise.

Q. What that be someone from outside the current organization?

A. Yes.

Q. There were conflicting reports, I got conflicting reports. Is it fair to say Bud approached you about changing his title and Wes separately also approached you about a change?

A. Yes. The truth is I did have separate conversations with both Bud and Wes. They both felt, and I don’t know if this is common or not, they were both trying to figure out what is best for the Hawks. I think they really both agreed that this organizational change of basketball operations would be good for the Hawks. I agree with them.

Q. When we met two weeks ago, you were clear that you wanted the direction of the franchise to be one that continued to make the playoffs and be that good but also continue to get younger. How much of a prime factor is that in who you bring in as the new GM? The reason I ask is this something you will look to blow up?

A. I don’t have a clear answer. It’s such an NBA cliché but you want to bring in the best athletes. … The truth is we are looking for a great GM who adds to what we have as a franchise, not with a preconceived notion of a direction.

Q. Has this been troubling for you personally to deal with this now and in this way?

A. I think I’m doing what is best for the franchise. Meeting with you a couple weeks back as we talked about, I think Bud and Wes are both smart, capable guys. I thought that two weeks ago. I think that today. But I also ask every day, every person imaginable, to try to figure out how to make this franchise better, how to move forward, how to make us more championship caliber. And the truth is, we need more help. And we are going to get it.

Q. Just to be clear, when you bring in a new GM, Bud would report to them but Wes would report to you?

A. Yes. I think that is absolutely the perspective. Wes is going to be the adviser to ownership but the GM is going to be brought in with a very clear sense of influence and a very clear and open and fair way.

Q. To address another report, there was never going to be a parting of the ways with Wes?

A. That was not an objective of ours.

Q. How would you sum up your thoughts in this process?

A. The greatest concern I had and still have, and the only concern, is I showed enthusiasm to you and Jeff (Schultz) two weeks ago. I still have the enthusiasm. I showed confidence in Bud and Wes. I still have confidence in both of them. But I do have, above all, the greatest commitment to this franchise and how to be better. When I was completely honest with myself after thorough and exhaustive evaluation, I really thought I could use more help in our basketball operations, more advice. We could be better. I didn’t think I should delay being better for any specific reason, including a conversation with two guys I’m trying to explain the direction of the franchise. We don’t think this has changed one iota, frankly, what I said to you and what I believe – that this is a franchise trying to be better.

We know what we have to do on the basketball court. We know growing and building the Hawks foundation and its activities across metro Atlanta or refurbishing the arena or transforming downtown or building a practice facility, we know that is separate and apart. We have to be better on the basketball court. That is our objective.

Q. When you say the word better, what does it mean to you?

A. When we try to be better, and I think I have learned, you have to be better with one eye on the current and present and one eye on the long term. I have learned that in my two-year ownership period in the NBA. Maybe I should have known that before. But you have to look at the present and the future. Not just one or the other. That is our goal and that is the objective of basketball operations, at least high-quality basketball operations, to me.


View Comments 0