The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services
Danny Ferry is gathering support from around the NBA as the embattled Hawks general manager has seen his character questioned in recent weeks following the latest firestorm that has engulfed the franchise.
“For over 30 years I have had the pleasure to call Danny my best friend,” said Nets general manager Billy King, who had Ferry in his wedding party. “He has been there for me through my toughest times as well the good. Danny, I feel as a GM, is always looking to build a team that the city he represents would be proud to support. He thinks team first as he leads.”
Ferry is on an indefinite leave of absence after it surfaced this month that he said Luol Deng had “some African in him” during a conference call with ownership and management about potential free agents in June. The comment set off an organization-wide investigation that uncovered a racially inflammatory email written by co-owner Bruce Levenson in 2012. It resulted in the controlling owner and his Washington partners agreeing to sell their stake in the team.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with several African-American coaches and front-office personnel around the NBA who have worked with Ferry to get their reaction to the comment. The support Ferry has received during the past month may not ultimately save his job with the Hawks. CEO Steven Koonin disciplined Ferry and intended to keep him in the position. However, Ferry asked for and was granted the leave on Sept. 12. NBA Commissioner has publicly said he does not believe Ferry should be fired but later said the leave of absence was appropriate. The final decision of Ferry’s future in Atlanta may well rest with the new controlling owner.
Those who spoke with the AJC spoke said they felt compelled to say that the comment was out of character. Ferry has declined comment since issuing a statement upon his leave of absence.
Ferry resigned as Cavaliers general manager after ownership fired head coach Mike Brown in 2010. Four years later, Brown is coming to his defense.
“I cannot say enough about Danny Ferry and the opportunity he gave me as a first time head coach,” Brown said. “The relationship we had at work and away from work, will be hard for me to duplicate going forward. The roller coaster ride of emotions we experienced together were easily navigated because of the blind trust we had for one another personally and professionally. We might not always agree with one another, but we could always count on having each other’s back by being on the same page when it was time to make a decision.
“And, toward the end of my first tenure with the Cavaliers, Danny never wavered in his belief in me.”
Magic Johnson sent out a series of posts on Twitter on Tuesday after the two had a lengthy meeting at Ferry’s request. Johnson, who immediately called for Ferry to be fired, said his apology was sincere and that he deserved a second chance. Ferry has also met with Atlanta community and civil and human rights leaders.
“I’m glad that Magic sat down and talked to him,” King said. “That was one of the problems I had. Everybody was attacking him without knowing him. Magic probably met him but he didn’t really know him. That’s what happens. You have to know the person before you label him something. Like Donald Sterling, everybody knew that’s who he was. That’s why so many of us came out so strongly (in support) because we have a long history of knowing (Ferry).”
Melvin Hunt, who was an assistant coach with the Cavaliers during Ferry’s tenure, also came to the defense of Ferry.
“I know this guy, I know him,” said Hunt, now an assistant with the Nuggets. “Danny’s ability to both appreciate and welcome differences was another strength of his when leading our organization. Not only did he know the importance of variety and diversity, he looked for it. Our staff over the years covered the full spectrum of diversity.
“I have said this many times. Danny Ferry can be accused of many things, but I would never use racist. Knowing his parents intimately and his upbringing, I am confident that Danny is anything but driven by a person’s color or ethnic background. I believe Danny made a mistake that he should not be characterized by.”
Tim Duncan categorized Ferry’s comment as a mistake but said he is not a racist in an interview with a San Antonio radio station Wednesday.
Duncan spoke to KZDC and defended Ferry. The two were teammates on the Spurs for three seasons. Ferry also served in the organization’s front office on two different occasions with Duncan as a player.
“Knowing Danny, he’s not what everybody’s saying about him,” Duncan told the station. “He’s not a racist. … He said something absolutely wrong and he regrets it. He’s not a racist. I know him well enough to feel comfortable saying that.”