Smith: ‘Don’t deny the former Hawk’ in GM search

Former Hawks player Steve Smith said the Hawks should look at former players in search for general manager.

Former Hawks player Steve Smith said the Hawks should look at former players in search for general manager.

Steve Smith asks one thing as the Hawks search for a new general manager.

The former Hawks star player wants to make sure the franchise looks at one of its own as part of the candidate search.

“The one thing I would ask of this Hawks organization is don’t deny the former Hawk,” Smith said in a radio interview with 92.9 FM on Monday. “… I hope the Atlanta Hawks and the organization, obviously you have to go to as many people as you can to fill the job, but don’t forget to look within.”

The Hawks are conducting a wide-ranging search for a new general manager after principal owner Tony Ressler made several front-office moves earlier this month. The organization removed the president of basketball operations title from coach Mike Budenholzer. General manager Wes Wilcox was moved to, for the time being, the role of special advisor to ownership. Ressler intends to hire a general manager to oversee the entire basketball operations. Several names have surfaced as the team has begun to conduct interviews.

Smith played 14 seasons in the NBA, including five with the Hawks. He was an All-Star while playing in Atlanta during the 1997-98 season. He also played for the Heat, Trail Blazers, Hornets/Bobcats, Heat and Spurs, where he won an NBA championship in 2003. Smith has spent the past several years as a basketball analyst.

Smith stopped short of saying he was a candidate for the Hawks’ vacancy, but has a noteworthy resume.

“I’m not just speaking about myself because I’m not one of those persons who self-promote, but there have been some guys in this organization,” Smith told the radio station. “And I’m not speaking for them because I don’t know where they are at but they are great friends of mine. Dikembe Mutombo. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who has been an assistant general manager, who has worked for the NBA, who played for the Hawks and is from here. There are so many guys and that’s the one thing that I think organizations do a bad job of, look within.

“If there is somebody who has the potential, the character and also has been around the organization, I think you look from within. I look at other organizations, whether it’s sports or corporations, a lot of times you look within and things happen well.”

Smith related his All-American collegiate career at Michigan State where Tom Izzo was promoted to head coach in 1995 after serving under long-time coach Jud Heathcote.

Smith acknowledged the difficulty of being a general manager in today’s NBA and noted that the right person must surround themselves with those to assist in the evaluation and development of talent and who have an understanding of the salary cap and analytics. Smith also said the ideal candidate must embrace the city of Atlanta.

“I think, whoever it might be, you have to come here and entrench yourself with the fiber of this city,” Smith said. “I don’t know if the last few general managers have done that. You have to be a part of this city. You have to be here. People have to see you. You have to be visible.”