Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Danny Ferry is back in NBA -- and he deserved that chance


When the roof was caving on the Hawks in 2014 because of a racially charged email from a  rock head owner (Bruce Levenson) and an ill-advised, similarly racially insensitive scouting report by their general manager (Danny Ferry), I wrote that the organization needed to clean house. That included Ferry.

I still believe today what I wrote then: "Ferry needs to go. He's damaged goods. He has done a more-than-admirable job in his two years as general manager, ridding the franchise of Joe Johnson and other bad-fit pieces, acquiring smart and disciplined players and hiring a coach, Mike Budenholzer, who has helped point guard Jeff Teague take his game to the next level. The Hawks aren't great yet, but because of Ferry they're not a punchline (on the court) either."

It was never my position that Ferry shouldn't work in the NBA again, merely that he had become too toxic to stay in Atlanta. Two years later, there has been more than enough time for the man to reflect on his mistake. It's time to let him work again.

The New Orleans Pelicans are giving Ferry another chance. They have hired him as a special adviser. Ferry will work with general manager Dell Demps, who is a former vice present of basketball operations for the San Antonio Spurs, where he and Ferry previously worked together.

Ferry officially stepped down from the Hawks after the 2014-15 season. He had an extended stay in purgatory with the Hawks that season and there a dispute within the Atlanta Spirit ownership group at that time as to whether to bring him back. Levenson and his Washington partners wanted Ferry back. Michael Gearon Jr. and his Atlanta partners wanted him gone. Levenson and Gearon seldom agreed on anything so it didn't figure they would start now, especially since Ferry seemed to have little use for the Gearons from the outset.

Both ownership factions attempted to manipulate  the situation by leaking out information about one side or the other -- but always with the comfort of anonymity, of course. I can personally tell you that I told one side I would only talk to them if it was on the record. They never called me again.

But it was clear Ferry was never going to be back with the Hawks, and after the Atlanta Spirit ownership group finally, mercifully, sold the team and Philips Arena to Tony Ressler and his partners, the decision to not bring Ferry back  was cemented.

Coach Mike Budenholzer was named team president  and Ferry officially stepped down June 22, 2015.

After two years out of the game, during which Ferry has spent time with his family and worked to raise awareness about vascular anomaly that affects one of his daughters , Ferry has been itching to get back with a team. He's a smart basketball man and will serve the Pelicans well. Consider this is a relative career trial balloon for him because if things go relatively well over the next year in New Orleans and the Luol Deng scouting report incident fades into history, another NBA team won't hesitate to hire him as their general manager.

Ferry couldn't continue in Atlanta because he had become a polarizing figure and, regardless of what side of his potential re-hiring you were on, Ressler logically did not want to have to deal with that situation as a new owner. But for another team, Ferry makes sense. And it's time he's back in the league.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.