Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Hawks' search for general manager continues as Grant rejects offer
By Marc Stein
The Atlanta Hawks were still looking for a new general manager Tuesday after Cleveland Cavaliers executive Chris Grant rejected the Hawks' offer.
Grant becomes the second prime candidate to remove his name from consideration for the Hawks' post after San Antonio Spurs assistant general manager Dennis Lindsey pulled out last week.
NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com that Grant spent the weekend mulling Atlanta's proposal before ultimately deciding to stay in his role with the Cavaliers as a top aide to front-office chief Danny Ferry.
Sources said contract negotiations between Grant and the Hawks began after Lindsey's withdrawal and intensified to the point that Atlanta had ceased speaking to other candidates, expecting Grant to accept.
Grant, who worked under Pete Babcock and Billy Knight with the Hawks before moving to Cleveland, is the only candidate to date who was actually offered the job, which came open May 6 when Knight abruptly resigned.
ESPN.com reported May 16 that Knight -- widely expected to be fired after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs -- actually had the opportunity to stay with the Hawks on a one-year contract. But Knight elected to step down effective July 1.
Hawks part-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that the process "is coming to a close," but it was not immediately known whom Atlanta will turn to now. One source close to the process described the Hawks as "scrambling" because they believed they had Grant, who ultimately decided against making the leap from one of the most stable franchises in the league to a team that just halted the league's longest playoff drought and which is known for feuding factions in its crowded ownership group.
Other candidates Atlanta is known to have interviewed, in addition to Grant and Lindsey, are Washington Wizards vice president of basketball administration Tommy Sheppard, Boston Celtics assistant general manager Dave Wohl and Portland Trail Blazers personnel scout John Gabriel, former general manager of the Orlando Magic.
Grant could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Lindsey had earlier cited "family considerations and professional considerations" for his pullout.
Gabriel has the most decorated resume of the recent interviewees, as a former NBA Executive of the Year in Orlando who left his post late in the Magic's 21-61 nightmare season in 2003-04. In his current job, Gabriel serves as a scout and adviser to Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.
The fast-rising Sheppard, who works as a lead assistant to Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, is an up-and-comer in the Grant mold and widely considered future GM material. In addition to his talks with the Hawks, Sheppard was a finalist in Seattle for the job that went to Sam Presti last summer.
Pritchard, Presti and Ferry rose to prominence after stints with the Spurs, who have been raided for executives in recent years after a run of three championships in five years. Lindsey is likewise considered future GM material after a long stint with the Houston Rockets and his move to San Antonio as a top aide to Spurs personnel chief R.C. Buford, but he was reluctant to entertain outside interest in his first full season with the Spurs. Lindsey had previously resisted overtures from the Milwaukee Bucks late in the regular season before the Bucks hired longtime Detroit Pistons executive John Hammond as their new front-office chief.
It's believed that Grant is also following Hammond's lead, after Hammond had rebuffed interest from several teams over the years to stay in Detroit as the right-hand man to Pistons president Joe Dumars before finally taking the Bucks' job.
Although Atlanta currently has no pick in the June 26 draft, either in the first or second round, Knight's successor is expected to make a firm ruling on the future of coach Mike Woodson, whose contract expires June 30. Knight reportedly tried to fire Woodson multiple times this season before the Hawks halted a playoff drought dating to 1999 and wound up extending the 66-win Celtics to a Game 7 in the first round.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.