Tony Ressler gets low points for honesty, but a high grade for belatedly recognizing the obvious: The Hawks need change.
Less than two weeks after saying he wasn’t planning any significant changes in the Hawks’ front office, specifically involving coach and president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer and/or general manager Wes Wilcox, it appears one may be moving down a notch and the other may be moving out.
The Hawks released a vague statement, stating only, “Hawks leadership is undergoing a period of evaluation and looking at how basketball operations works best. There are no changes to report at this time and any reports indicating otherwise are inaccurate.”
UPDATE: Here’s an updated story on the potential moves by Chris Vivlamore.
But something clearly is coming. The statement followed two reports hinting at a shakeup: ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported Wilcox is expected to be removed as general manager and it’s uncertain if he’ll be kept in any capacity. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Budenholzer has had discussions with ownership about the possibility of dropping his front-office duties but remaining as coach.
This much seems apparent: Ressler, the team’s majority owner, has made a U-turn.
It was less than two weeks ago when Ressler gave an extensive interview with Chris Vivlamore and me about the state of the franchise. He expressed extreme confidence in his primary two basketball decision makers, saying, “I love Bud and Wes. I love the intellect, the competence and the commitment to win of both Bud and Wes.”
When told retaining both in the same capacity next season would not go over well with the public, Ressler said, “You can’t please everyone. My hope over time is fans will see this effort and the people we have in place are capable of making really good decisions.”
Yeah. Never mind.
I left that interview with Ressler convinced Budenholzer would retain both of his positions, but remained uncertain about Wilcox’s future, largely because there were indications he and Budenholzer were on different sides in terms of whether to deal impending free agent Paul Millsap at the trade deadline and send the Hawks into full rebuild move. The Hawks surprisingly pulled Millsap off the market after previously fielding offers. Ressler said he was opposed to dealing his team’s best player.
I maintain that was a mistake. In the bigger picture, it also was clear the Hawks made significant mistakes in personnel decisions over the past two years since general manager Danny Ferry’s departure, notably signing center Dwight Howard and letting free agent Al Horford walk out the door.
The Hawks’ record has dropped each of the past two seasons, from 60-22 in 2014-15 to 43-39 this season and the team was bounced in the first round the playoffs by Washington.
It’s clear change was needed. It seemed clear to everybody but Ressler, at least not publicly. Now that apparently is not the case. This is too important of an offseason for the Hawks. They can’t afford any more mistakes. Presumably, Ressler recognized that.
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