Storyline: Hawks Front Office

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The Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club has hired nationally-recognized, sports sales and marketing executive Michael Drake as its Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships and Premium Sales. He most recently served as SVP & Chief Revenue Officer of Business Operations for AMB Sports & Entertainment (AMBSE), overseeing all ticket operations, service initiatives and marketing and analytic strategies for suite, loge, season ticket and seat license sales for the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United and Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS).

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The worst thing you can be in the NBA is mediocre, and that’s where the Hawks were. Majority owner Tony Ressler had to be convinced to let Millsap go, but he signed off on not re-signing Millsap, and then went all-in on Process South, replacing former GM Wes Wilcox in May — who remains with the franchise as a consultant — with Schlenk, who was the assistant GM with the Warriors the last five years. “Well, we had two choices, the way I saw it,” Ressler said Friday, in the new owners’/VIP digs, which are hard off the new Hawks Bar that is directly behind the baseline, steps off the floor — one of the many parts of the Philips renovation, which is scheduled to conclude next year.”

“We never had the choice of being a contender. We weren’t,” Ressler said. “I saw the team go from 60 wins to 48 to 43. And we didn’t make many changes going from 60 to 48 to 43. We thought we made additions. Let’s just say I concluded, with Travis’ help, with Bud’s help, I concluded that we were not going in the right direction. Truly, there are three options in the NBA, I would argue: being a contender, being a competitive team, and being young and fun. At least that would be my opinion. And we didn’t have the option of being a contender. So we could be competitive, or more competitive, and maybe, shall we say, with a whole bunch of higher-priced vets that made us older and made our payroll less flexible, and made our future more cloudy.”

How serious do you think (Hawks GM) Travis Schlenk is about trading Dennis Schroder? And what might those trades look like? Here’s one thing I know about Travis Schlenk: He wants nothing to do with long-term contracts. Schlenk craves flexibility, and his early moves – trading Howard, making little effort to retain Paul Millsap – tell me he’s thinking well into the future. Schroder is a little different though. There’s legitimate talent there, which can’t be dismissed. But more importantly, there is no real market for him. I ran Schroder’s name by a few team executives this week, and each recoiled. There’s a toxicity surrounding Schroder right now. A reputation as a selfish player has gained significant traction throughout the league. His arrest on battery charges last month – an incident the Hawks have deemed “unacceptable” – is an example teams cite of his immaturity. Said a Western Conference executive: “I don’t need that kind of headache.” Perhaps Atlanta could give Schroder away. But at 24, Schroder is a terrific talent. Maybe the Hawks can work with him and hope he matures. Really, they don’t have much of a choice.

With weekly segments featuring Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and CEO Steve Koonin returning once again to the station, Hawks leadership will be featured on the Hawks’ radio flagship on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the season. “We are very pleased to continue our great relationship with the Atlanta Hawks,” said Terry Foxx, Program Director at SportsRadio 92-9 The Game. “Having Coach Bud along with CEO Steve Koonin and now the new GM of the Hawks, Travis Schlenk, will further enhance our overall coverage of the Hawks. When you add the legendary voice of the Hawks, Steve Holman, we have a continued amazing partnership with the Hawks and our fans.”

Bembry was familiar with the Hawks’ interest in him. And when then-general manager Wes Wilcox and head coach Mike Budenholzer called to let Bembry know the Hawks selected him at No. 21, it was a bittersweet moment. His childhood dream come true, Bembry had a quiet moment with his mother and grandmother in tribute to his brother before hugging his screaming family and friends. “I was in the hallway on the phone and I waited for them to call my name and then I was just running around, running around,” Bembry said. “Everybody just started yelling. Yeah, emotions were around. A lot of energy. At the time of the call, I was first thinking, ‘I made it to my dream.’ At first, it was just me, my mom and my grandmother in the room just in there, happy, of course, of what happened. Of course, we talked about my little brother and how much he would have been happy for me.”

Judging by the questions each man got this week, there is interest in how new Hawks GM Travis Schlenk and coach Mike Budenholzer will coexist. That makes some sense because Schlenk now has the franchise-shaping power that Budenholzer once had. But it also seems there’s a perception that there’s no way Budenholzer is OK with Schlenk’s rebuilding plan and that this will cause friction between the two. Both Budenholzer and Schlenk said they are on the same page, but that won’t stop outside speculation about potential rifts. Maybe I’m weird, but I’ve never had much interest in interpersonal front-office drama. Leaders have different personalities and styles. Roles change and evolve in professional sports, and at some point, all coaches and executives must adjust. Ultimately they are judged by the final product.

The pursuit of Olshey signals a possible willingness within ownership to make a significant financial commitment to hire an elite league executive. To pry Olshey, or any sitting top basketball decision-maker, Atlanta would undoubtedly have to offer draft or financial compensation to a team. Those conversations never started with the Blazers, sources said. It is unclear if Olshey would’ve had interest in discussing Atlanta’s opening with team owners. He joined the Blazers as the franchise’s top basketball executive in 2012, after leaving the Clippers.

Ian Begley: The New York Knicks have granted the Atlanta Hawks permission to interview Knicks Director of Player Personnel Mark Hughes for their general manager opening, league sources confirm to ESPN. Hughes, a veteran executive with the organization since 2007, has been one of the key figures in the Knicks’ recent draft success, which includes Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Channing Frye and Danilo Gallinari. The Knicks, of course, have made some poor picks in that span but have been largely successful in the draft. The Hawks’ interest in Hughes – and the Knicks’ granting permission for an interview – was first reported by The Vertical. Hughes was a co-captain of the 1989 National Championship team at Michigan and has coaching experience as an NBA assistant and CBA head coach.

Atlanta is considering a number of candidates, including Griffin, Joe Dumars, Houston vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and New York Knicks director of player personnel Mark Hughes, sources said. Altanta is also planning to discuss the GM opening with television analysts and former players Chauncey Billups and Brent Barry, league sources told The Vertical. Houston has granted permission to Atlanta to discuss the opening with Rosas, its No. 2 executive behind GM Daryl Morey, league sources said. New York has granted permission on Hughes too, league sources said.

Sources tell the Orlando Sentinel that Magic officials have interest in former NBA All-Star and former Magic player Grant Hill to work as president of basketball operations. But it’s unclear if Hill has interest in the job. Joining the Magic would require Hill to divest his small ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks. If Hill doesn’t have interest, candidates for the general manager job likely would include Detroit Pistons associate general manager and former Magic player Pat Garrity and Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk.

The Atlanta Hawks have appointed Malik Rose as general manager of their NBA Development League affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania, beginning next season. Rose also will maintain his duties as manager of basketball operations for the Hawks, who made the announcement Tuesday. The Hawks’ new D-League franchise will play in Erie the next two seasons before relocating in 2019 to a 3,500-seat arena that will be built in College Park , adjacent to Atlanta’s airport and only about 10 miles from Philips Arena.

Members of current Hawks management have a previous relationship with the BayHawks. Wilcox helped create and run the BayHawks while he worked for the Cavaliers. The BayHawks were a multi-affiliated franchise at their start. John Treloar, the Hawks current director of player personnel, served as the coach of the BayHawks for the first two seasons. Wilcox helped run the BayHawks for a third season before the Cavaliers bought the D-League franchise in Canton. Wilcox served as that franchise’s first general manager until he joined the Hawks as assistant general manager in 2012.

Steinberg sent an e-mail announcing his decision within the Hawks organization Monday morning. When the Hawks announced the new position for Steinberg, who had previously served as Chief Revenue Officer, they announced Andrew Saltzman as Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer. CEO Steve Koonin and Saltzman did a wide-ranging interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published last week, on a number of topics including the expected announcement of a site and naming-rights partner for the practice facility in the first quarter of 2016 and efforts toward a major Philips Arena renovation.
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December 15, 2017 | 10:05 pm EST Update