Danny Ferry is still technically the Atlanta Hawks general manager, but he probably won't be by the beginning of the season. Here's why.
1. One of his bosses wants him to be fired
Never underestimate the ability of the Atlanta Spirit ownership group to trip itself on the path toward aptitude. But Michael Gearon, Jr., a member of the Spirit partnership, called for Ferry's ouster in June, sparking the internal investigation that felled controlling partner Bruce Levenson. Nothing indicates that Gearon has changed his mind. (It's worth nothing that Gearon's father is also a member of the ownership group.)
2. Ferry's comments are worse than Levenson's
In particular, they're more sensational and nakedly jaw-dropping than Levenson's email. We live in an Outrage Society, and Ferry's comments -- authored by someone else or not -- are so unbelievably outrageous as to practically demand attention. Levenson's fateful email was long and drawn out, though no less stunning in the end. But the words being attributed to Ferry are clearly, obviously, no-question-about-it offensive and racist and terrible. The optics matter, and the optics are so, so bad. Speaking of which ...
3. Luol Deng is a saint
The comments would not be okay in reference to any player or any ethnicity. But that the comments were made about Deng, a humanitarian par excellence who survived civil strife in South Sudan and gives back endlessly, is some horrible icing on the situation.
4. Ferry's excuse isn't enough
Ferry says he was reading off of scouting reports prepared using info from a wide range of sources. Let's take his word for it. Let's assume that he didn't read all of the scouting reports before jumping on the call. He read them out loud on the phone. They were bad enough, as described by Gearon, to warrant a brief pause to apologize for reading them, disagree with them vociferously and generally ensure that no one on the call mistakenly thought the words were Ferry's own.
Gearon obviously came away thinking the words belonged to Ferry. Unless the audio proves that Ferry made explicitly clear after the egregious comments that he did not agree with them, I can see how Gearon might walk away mistaken. It's up to Ferry to make it clear.
5. The new controlling partner doesn't want to inherit this mess
If an outsider buys Levenson's share in the club, what are the odds s/he'll want to keep Ferry around, no matter how good he is at his job? If a current non-controlling partner antes up, won't he want a clean break from the Levenson/Ferry controversy? Ferry has a strong record as a basketball executive and he's sticking with his excuse. But given the work the Hawks franchise has to do now to rebuild its relationship with Atlanta, Ferry will likely prove not to be worth the trouble.