3:36pm: Ferry apologized to Deng as part of a statement the Hawks sent out via another press release, one in which he also addressed his leave of absence.
“My focus moving forward is to tirelessly work to rebuild trust with this community and with our fans,” Ferry said in part. “I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me. I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion. I will find a way to make a positive difference in this area, and further learn from the sensitivity training that I will go through.”
3:04pm: Danny Ferry is taking an indefinite leave of absence from his job as Hawks GM, the team announced via press release. Coach Mike Budenholzer will assume control of the basketball operations while Ferry is away, according to the team’s statement, which CEO Steve Koonin authored.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing,” Koonin said in part. “As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.”
Koonin also hints at the turmoil within the team’s ownership group, which has been wracked with infighting since purchasing the team nine years ago. Co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. has sought Ferry’s ouster and has butted heads with controlling owner Bruce Levenson, who’s selling his stake.
“While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners,” Koonin said. “That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work. The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.”
Budenholzer had been preparing to go into just his second season as an NBA head coach after having spent the previous 17 years as an assistant coach for the Spurs. He’s never held a job other than coach in the NBA, save for a two-season stint as video coordinator for the Spurs before he moved to the team’s bench. Atlanta has deals with 15 players, but the team will likely make multiple additions within the next few weeks for training camp.
Koonin has publicly backed Ferry, who received censure from the Hawks for having repeated racially charged statements about free agent target Luol Deng, who’s now with the Heat. Still, Koonin has stood by his decision not to force Ferry out, and Ferry gave no indication he planned to resign when he expressed regret earlier this week about repeating the statements. The NBA has maintained that it doesn’t intend to punish Ferry, and commissioner Adam Silver has said he doesn’t believe what Ferry did should prompt the Hawks to terminate him.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.