There are going to be disagreements — some of them heated perhaps.
Danny Ferry and Mike Budenholzer have been through it before. However, both the Hawks’ general manager and their new head coach insist it is part of the process of building and sustaining a winning organization.
“He’s going to have great opinions,” Ferry said of Budenholzer on Wednesday at the coach’s introductory news conference. “And we are going to have great fights and arguments. At the end of the day we will walk out of the room with decisions from our group, and they will be our decisions.”
They are friends with a shared background in an organization that won four NBA Championships and is vying for a fifth. Ferry worked with Budenholzer, who spent the past 19 seasons with the Spurs, during his three stints in San Antonio, three as a player (2000-03) and five in the front office (2003-05, 2010-12).
Budenholzer, 43, was hired Tuesday as the organization’s 12th full-time head coach and signed a multi-year contract. He replaces Larry Drew, who will not have his contract renewed.
Budenholzer said the combination of the Hawks ownership, general manager and roster made for the ideal opportunity to leave San Antonio and venture out on his own.
“Here in Atlanta they have all three things going in a positive direction,” Budenholzer said. “So, it made it the perfect place, the perfect fit, for me. … I’ve been in San Antonio a long time. It was going to take something like this opportunity, and this team, and this group to make me feel comfortable and feel great about this step. Atlanta has all that.”
What about the roster? The Hawks have three players, Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins, guaranteed to return this season. Two others, Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson, are restricted free agents. Seven players, including Josh Smith, are unrestricted free agents. The Hawks will build nearly an entire new roster through free agency and the draft in the coming months.
The returning players (specifically Horford), a group of young players and salary-cap flexibility made the Hawks’ roster attractive, Budenholzer said.
“(Ferry) made it clear to me that he wants my opinion,” he said. “He wants me to bring experiences, some we’ve had together, some we’ve had apart. He’s done amazing things in San Antonio and Cleveland, and together we are going to build something special in Atlanta. Part of that is making decisions, disagreeing, debating.”
Budenholzer comes from a successful Spurs organization that is progressive in areas such as analytics and player development. Budenholzer, who has been mentioned as a candidate for several openings in recent years, said he believes he is ready to slide over a seat after serving under Gregg Popovich so many years.
Budenholzer was scheduled to return to San Antonio on Wednesday as the Spurs prepared for the NBA Finals against the Heat or the Pacers. He did not want to get specific about his staff or the draft until after his season in San Antonio is over.
The coach said he will bring a defense-first system to Atlanta.
“My coaching style, I think it starts with being good defensively,” Budenholzer said. “That has to be a priority. We’ve got to build the habits. We’ve got to make that part of our identity. If we want to be good, we have to be good defensively.
“Then I think there is a system offensively that has evolved and grown, that I’m very comfortable with, that I want to bring with me. It starts with playing with a high pace, ball movement, people movement, playing unselfish, organized and attacking. We want to be good on both ends. I think the defensive end will lead into our offense. I think there is a cycle that is part of basketball. I want to be great on both ends.”