Ferrell takes experience to front office
Indianapolis (Oct. 31, 2011) -- The job title is a mouthful: Player Relations and Programs Manager.
Even so, it barely begins to encompass the many roles Duane Ferrell serves with the Atlanta Hawks.
"There are so many hats that I wear on a daily basis, I deal with so many aspects -- their family, their friends, their girlfriend, their relationships with other teammates, their relationships with the coaches," he said. "It is a rare opportunity to deal directly with the players, the coaches, the front office, the league office. …
"(Hawks General Manager) Rick Sund has allowed me to kind of sit in on some of the front office meetings when we're dealing with a draft pick, listening to the scouts. I'll have the opportunity to go out with them and see how they evaluate a player and how they value a player, the system they put in place. I deal with things here at Philips Arena, deal with game-day situations.
"You put out a lot of fires, handle a lot of situations. You wear multiple hats and the title doesn't really cover what you do."
It is not that much different than his days as a player, including three seasons with the Pacers.
A 6-7, 215-pound forward, Ferrell was a consummate pro, able to contribute when called upon, willing to wait for those opportunities and serving as a voice of reason in the locker room throughout. As an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech, Ferrell wound up playing 11 seasons in the NBA, so he knows a little about what it takes to survive.
As he headed into the final seasons of his career with the Golden State Warriors from 1997-99, Ferrell began thinking, and planning, for his post-playing career.
"As my role would diminish, as I got older, I became more of a person that the younger players or some of the players that had been in the league a few years, could get advice from, lean on, ask questions on how to handle certain situations," he said. "Sometimes it was understanding what the coach's philosophy is, his mindset is -- why is he on me so hard or why is he asking me to do this?
"I was able to play under some of the best coaches that have coached in this league -- Mike Fratello, Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens. When you play under those types of coaches you learn a lot. I think those experiences helped mold me into a reliable person for the players. I was player who never had any headlines in the local paper, any bad or negative press, someone who didn't burn bridges, who got along with everyone on and off the court, who did a lot in the community, who also was a family man with children and morals and values. … I think it all evolved because of my personality, the type of person I was, the type of player I was -- a hard-nosed, blue-collar, work-hard guy who tried to get the most out of the ability I had."
Ferrell joined the Pacers as a free agent on Sept. 30, 1994 and was a valuable reserve for three seasons, averaging 13.4 minutes, 4.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 172 games as the Pacers reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 1995 and '96.
After the 1996-97 season, Brown's last and the only non-playoff finish in a 17-year span for the Pacers, Ferrell was traded to Golden State with Erick Dampier in exchange for Chris Mullin.
"That was a great time for me," Ferrell said. "I really enjoyed living in Indianapolis, especially with my kids, my family. I thought it was a great place for raising children. I thought the school systems were tremendous. The fan appreciation, the fan knowledge was unreal. And I think the relationships I made along the way with the players, the organization -- one of the few organizations that when someone said they had an open-door policy that was true for Donnie Walsh and Larry Brown and those guys.
"Getting the opportunity to play with Reggie (Miller) and Rik (Smits) and Derrick (McKey) and Haywoode (Workman) and Dale (Davis) and Tony (Davis) and Byron (Scott). … We did everything as a team. When we went to the mall, the entire team went. When we went out to eat, the entire team went. When there was a birthday, we all celebrated. I think Larry (Brown) had a great impact on us with all of that because he cared about family and children and things like that. He would allow our kids to hang around the locker room, on the bus, on the plane, things like that to interact with the players.
"People would say he's a difficult coach but he believed in his players, he trusted his players and he cared for his players so he would always push you to those limits to get the best out of you. When I go back there, it just feels like home."
Ferrell's first venture into a front-office role came in player development with the Washington Wizards from 2001-04, where he worked with Michael Jordan, Doug Collins and former Warriors teammate Rod Higgins. He is entering his fourth season in his present role with the Hawks.
Fully comfortable working with the players, Ferrell has benefited from exposure to a variety of jobs from coaching to scouting to management. As a result, he is prepared for whatever the future might offer.
"I do still enjoy being with the players," he said. "The coaching side of it, the turnover, the job security is not quite what it is in the front office. And then I look at the front office, those positions tend to stay filled for a long time. But at my age, I still feel like I can get out there and help players and teach and stuff like that.
"I try to position myself for whatever opportunity presents itself. That's why I still try to stay involved as much as possible with the coaches, sitting in on meetings to listen to their philosophies and thoughts. In the front office you get to sit in on evaluations and listen to the salary cap stuff and the other things that are going in. It's the best of both worlds."