HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Now that the news has broken and the previously unidentified buyer of the Atlanta Hawks has been revealed, Hawks fans are ready for the Alex Meruelo era to begin.
Never mind that most Hawks fans had never heard of Meruelo, the Southern California-based business man who would become the first Hispanic owner of an NBA franchise at the close of the deal, before word spread this morning that he would purchase controlling interest in the franchise from the remains of the Atlanta Spirit Group.
When you hit the stage talking the way Meruelo did to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — “I’m a person who doesn’t give up. I want to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta.” — the fans want to hear more.
As Hawks fans spend the next few days purging the drama and turmoil of the Spirit days from their systems, Hawks staffers are preparing for Monday’s official announcement and whatever changes might be on the way with a new owner (the Spirit group will retain minority ownership positions).
What that means for the team remains a mystery. The Hawks have gone from an Eastern Conference doormat to a consistent playoff team since the 2004 sale of the team from Time Warner to the ASG. They’ve made the playoffs four straight years and been to the Eastern Conference semifinals in each of the past three seasons.
But if Meruelo’s words (“I will be in complete control of the team.”) mean anything to you, folks in and around the organization should prepare themselves for some changes:
Although his primary residence and business will remain in Southern California,
Meruelo said he plans to spend a lot of time in Atlanta and to buy a home here.
“If you look at my previous … business ventures, I’m very hands-on, and this will be no different,” he said.
Asked if there is any scenario in which he would seek to move the Hawks out of Atlanta, Meruelo said: “Absolutely no. None.”
Owning an NBA team, he said, “has been a dream of mine and a passion, and you’ll definitely see that as I become, hopefully, the owner in a short period of time.”
What all of this means for the people running the show right now — most notably Hawks general manager Rick Sund and head coach Larry Drew — remains to be seen.
But general managers and coaches have a way of exiting the stage when new ownership takes control.
Without any clear basketball or NBA connections to speak of, there is no telling what direction Meruelo will go in. But you can rest assured there will be some changes … be it at that level or in the makeup of a team that many feel has plateaued with its current group of core players.
And with Meruelo’s unique success story, you can read more of it here, courtesy of the AJC’s Mark Bradley, it’s clear he won’t be afraid of taking a few chances to mold the franchise in whatever ways he deems necessary to achieve his desired goals.
It makes you wonder, who stays and who goes?