By David R. Cohen | firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been a little more than a month since the Atlanta Hawks wrapped up a franchise record 60-22 season with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Memories of former owner Bruce Levenson’s racially charged email have faded, and a new ownership group, led by Jewish investor Tony Ressler and including seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill and Jewish entrepreneurs Sara Blakely and Jesse Itzler, has taken control.
Since the Hawks’ season-ending playoff loss May 26 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the organization has moved to rebrand itself.
On June 1, the Hawks unveiled a new logo and brand identity with the return of the classic “Pac-Man” logo and the words “Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club” around the outside. The team unveiled redesigned uniforms and a color scheme featuring neon green June 24, the same day the league approved the team’s sale to Ressler and his partners.
To get feedback on proposed uniforms, Hawks CEO Steve Koonin reportedly had his 27-year-old son David and a group of his millennial friends over to his house to get their impressions on marketing proposals.
“I wanted to get confirmation because I wasn’t the target,” the Jewish CEO said of the impromptu focus groups. “When I worked in television, I was much more of the target demographic, and I could relate to the product. With the Hawks, I’m a middle-aged, white, Buckhead executive talking about African-Americans and millennials.”
The Hawks have retained Koonin as CEO and have a handshake agreement with head coach Mike Budenholzer to add president of basketball operations to his titles.
General Manager Danny Ferry, however, took a buyout June 22 after a 10-month leave of absence, the fallout from a racially charged incident in which Ferry read aloud an offensive scouting report of Miami Heat player Luol Deng during a conference call.
The Hawks have not been as dramatic with their players heading into the free-agency period July 1.
The team used its first-round pick, 15th overall, in the NBA draft June 25 on Kansas swingman Kelly Oubre and traded him to the Washington Wizards for the 19th pick and second-round picks in 2016 and 2019. At No. 19, the Hawks selected point guard Jerian Grant from Notre Dame and promptly sent him to the New York Knicks for third-year shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., a bench player.
The Hawks, who have salary cap flexibility, reportedly are targeting big-name free-agent center LaMarcus Aldridge to complement All-Star forward Al Horford.
The next change for the Hawks might come around the court. During his introductory press conference June 25, Ressler said 16-year-old Phillips Arena is in dire need of a remodel or complete rebuild. The Ressler group’s purchase included operating rights and debt for the arena.
Despite complaints about the arena, Ressler seems ecstatic to be a part of the rebranded Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club.
“Obviously, we are just so excited to be here,” he said. “We couldn’t be more excited to be in Atlanta. We couldn’t be more excited to be owners of this special Hawks franchise.”