Hawks Charity Classic Brings Together Old And New

Hawks players with Head Coach Mike Woodson at the Hawks Foundation Charity Golf Classic.

Hawks Charity Classic Brings Together Old And New

By Micah Hart

ATLANTA (Nov. 1, 2004) -- RESTART is the slogan defining the brand new Atlanta Hawks as they prepare to begin the 2004-05 season. There are new owners, new coaches, new players, and a new game plan for bringing the Atlanta community closer together with the team and organization as a whole.

On Friday, part of the spirit of the RESTART plan could be seen at the 11th annual Hawks Foundation Charity Golf Classic, held at Bear's Best in Suwanee, GA. The event, held to raise money for the AFLAC Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta as well as the Hawks Foundation, brought together many of the Hawks corporate sponsors and gave them the opportunity to play a round for charity with Hawks ownership, executives, and players.

Not only were some of the current players like Jon Barry, Boris Diaw, Antoine Walker, and Jason Collier on hand, but many former members of the team came out to participate as well.

"It's a pleasure to see this participation," said Hawks owner Michael Gearon. "So many familiar faces are here: guys like Lou Hudson and Moses Malone, who have played for the franchise spanning over three decades. It's nice to hear them talking about old times and reminiscing about the past."

It's a large part of the Hawks' reinvigorated effort to connect with the team's past, and the golf tournament is just the beginning.

"This is a new dawning for us," said Hawks President and CEO Bernie Mullin. "We have a new initiative to get the alums much more involved than we have in the past. We really want to get them to feel like they are a part of the family and acknowledge the contributions they have made to us over the years."

The Hawks plan on incorporating alumni into many fan-friendly activities, including the Basketball New Year Countdown & Viewing Party this coming Wednesday at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead. Former Hawks guard Spud Webb will take part in an autograph session as well as shooting contests against fans as the Hawks tip off the brand new season. But it's just a small portion of the strategy the team has to keep former players in the mix.

"Fans are going to see the alums a lot more at games," added Mullin. "They are going to be visible, walking through the suites and club areas, talking to fans. We are going to be doing a lot of programs where fans will be able to come down to the arena, play on the court, sit in the locker rooms, and even be coached by some of the alums."

Hawks VP - Basketball Dominique Wilkins will be heavily involved in the new programs, an obvious fit given his stature amongst the Hawks' all-time greats.

"Bringing these guys back is very important to me," said Wilkins. "To develop a program like this at this point in time is so valuable, not just to the team but to the city. Fans thrive on history. They like to be connected to the past, and we haven't really provided that before. But this new ownership group is really making an effort to change that, and they really understand. They know the importance of having former players involved, they are developing that aspect, and I couldn't be more thrilled."

Webb, a fan favorite from his seven years as a Hawk in the late 80's and early 90's (who can forget his slam dunk title over Dominique during the 1986 All-Star weekend?), agreed that getting alumni involved would be a great boon to the team.

"I think it's definitely a step in the right direction for the organization," said Webb, "and its great for me. I spent a lot of years here, and I don't get to see some of these guys I played with very often."

"It's a long time coming," said Hudson, one of three Hawks to have his number retired by the franchise. "It will tie the past to now, which is important. It will be great to have some of the older players around, so that parents can take their kids to games and say, `Look, that's the guy I rooted for when I was growing up.'"

The tournament featured 32 foursomes, each paired with a celebrity golfer, playing in a scramble format. In addition to current Hawks players and execs, Hawks legends like Malone and Hudson were in attendance as was Brian Jordan, a former member of both the Atlanta Braves and Falcons.

Many of the Hawks' main partners contributed to the event at Bear's Best, a venue designed to incorporate 18 of the best holes from Jack Nicklaus-designed courses (of which there are over 200 worldwide). Sponsoring the event were Philips Electronics, Bud Light, Delta Air Lines, Sprite, Fastsigns, Jaguar Cars North America, and Outback Steakhouse of Buckhead.

Since the tournament's inception in 1994, the event has raised over $1,000,000, benefitting multpile charities as well as the Hawks Foundation.

(L to R:) front: Head Coach Mike Woodson, Lou Hudson, Wes Matthews, Mike Glenn, Charlie Criss, Spud Webb. Back: Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Andrew Lang, Jim Washington, Billy Knight

Micah Hart is the Assistant Web Editor for the Atlanta Hawks