Hawks' Wilcox out as GM, Budenholzer no longer president
ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks' next general manager will have total authority of personnel decisions following moves on Friday which dismantled the two-tier management team of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox.
Budenholzer resigned as the Hawks' president of basketball operations and will remain as coach, and Wilcox resigned as general manager and ''will become an adviser to ownership.''
Budenholzer will remain involved in personnel decisions, but principal owner Tony Ressler stressed the new general manager will be in charge.
''I think we as a franchise need more firepower to get to the next level,'' Ressler said Friday.
Ressler said he hopes to have a new general manager before the June 22 NBA draft and free agency.
After saying two weeks ago he had confidence in the team's leadership with Budenholzer and Wilcox, Ressler said ''it became painfully obvious'' changes were needed after meeting with each of the two.
''I thought then and now that Bud is a heck of a basketball coach and Wes has a great basketball mind,'' Ressler said. ''But I also felt after these in-depth discussions with both of them it became quite clear to me that we could be better.''
The changes come after the Hawks dipped to 43-39 this season and lost to the Washington Wizards in the opening round of the playoffs.
Budenholzer was promoted to president of basketball operations after a 60-win season in 2014-15, when the Hawks earned the top seed in the East and reached the conference final before getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The management team of Budenholzer and Wilcox engineered offseason moves which produced questionable results.
The team signed Kent Bazemore to a four-year, $70 million deal and signed center Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal. Point guard Jeff Teague was traded to clear the path for Dennis Schroder at point guard, and longtime center Al Horford signed with Boston as a free agent.
Howard did not play in the fourth quarter of the Hawks' 115-99 Game 6 loss to Washington. It was the second time in six playoff games the center did not play in the fourth quarter.
Two straight seasons of dips in win totals could lead to a more dramatic decline if the team is unable to re-sign free-agent forward Paul Millsap.
Millsap, a four-time All-Star who averaged 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, was the top producer on a roster that received disappointing returns from Howard and Bazemore.
Ressler said ''I don't think it's fair'' to say Budenholzer and Wilcox were forced to resign. He said the two also recognized the need for a change.
Ressler said when he asked Budenholzer and Wilcox how the team can improve, neither ''felt we were operating to our best ability as a franchise. I would argue they were recognizing at least as clearly and early as I did, maybe earlier, and it became painfully obvious after discussions with each of them.''
Budenholzer acknowledged the 43-win season and first-round exit from the playoffs was disappointing.
''I think we thought we had a team that could compete with anybody in the league,'' Budenholzer said Saturday. ''I think when you look at the record from the regular season and then not advancing from this round, I think we all thought we had greater potential.''
Ressler said the team would conduct a ''wide-open'' search for a general manager. Rick Sund, the Hawks' former GM who has remained a senior adviser with the team, will help coordinate the search but won't be a candidate, according to Ressler.
Former player Grant Hill, part of a Ressler's ownership team, also is not a candidate for a management role. ''He's an owner, a friend and an adviser,'' Ressler said.
Ressler said he was uncertain if a new president of basketball operations will be named. The title would have less punch in the reorganized front office with a new general manager making the personnel decisions.
''The GM will have clarity of vision in his role and his authority,'' Ressler said. ''He will absolutely be in charge as great GMs should be of basketball personnel. Mike Budenholzer will have input from a head coach's perspective, which we value.''
Ressler said he expects Wilcox will have offers from other teams if he does not want to remain as an adviser.
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