The team colors are red, black, and gold, and the mascots are Skyhawk and Harry the Hawk. The Hawks also have a twenty-member dance team that performs at all the Hawks' home games.
The story of the Atlanta Hawks begins in 1946, when the franchise known as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks was shared by three cities along the Mississippi River: Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa. The team moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then to St. Louis, Missouri, where the St. Louis Hawks won the franchise's only championship in 1958.
In 1968 new owners Thomas Cousins, a Georgia real estate developer, and former Georgia governor Carl Sanders moved the Hawks to Atlanta. The team shared Alexander Memorial Hall with the Georgia Tech basketball team. Richie Guerin, a guard acquired from the Knicks in 1963, was made
In 1970 the Atlanta Hawks selected Pete Maravich third overall in the NBA draft. In his rookie season he averaged 23.2 points per game, second only to Lou Hudson's 26.8 points per game. Despite the contributions of Maravich and Hudson, the Hawks fell below .500 for the first time since moving to Atlanta.
The 1972-73 season included two significant developments. The Hawks moved from Alexander Memorial Hall to the Omni, a new 16,500-seat arena, and hired Lowell "Cotton" Fitzsimmons as the new head coach. Richie Guerin retired after 7 1/2 seasons with a 327-291 career record. Fitzsimmons guided the Hawks to a 46-36 record in his inaugural season but lost in the first round of the play-offs. The Hawks were led by high scorers Hudson (27.1 points per game) and Maravich (26.1 points per game).
The acquisition of Dominique Wilkins in 1982 sent the Hawks in a new direction. The University of Georgia standout and "human highlight film" won a spot on the 1982-83 all-rookie team, one of many achievements in his tenure with the Hawks. He was the all-time leading scorer in franchise history, named to seven all-NBA teams and nine All-Star squads, and was a two-time winner of the NBA Slam Dunk competition.
The mid-1980s was a rebuilding period for the Hawks. Mike Fratello replaced Loughery as head coach in 1983. Several new players, including Kevin Willis, Jon Koncak, and Anthony "Spud" Webb, helped the Hawks to a fifty-win season in 1985-86. Wilkins continued to lead the team in scoring and finished second in the league only to Michael Jordan in the 1986-87 season with 29 points per game. Despite four consecutive seasons (1985-89) with fifty wins, the Hawks were unable to win an NBA title, and head coach Mike Fratello was replaced with Bob Weiss from San Antonio.
Hawks Take Flight
The Hawks were recognized for several individual achievements. Lenny Wilkens won his 1,100th career
The Hawks experienced a transitional period during the late 1990s. The team split time between Georgia Tech and the Georgia Dome while awaiting the opening of their new home at Philips Arena. While playing at the Dome, the Hawks broke the NBA single-game attendance record with 62,046 fans and went on to break the single-season home attendance record as well. In 1999-2000 the Hawks moved to Philips Arena and recorded the worst record in franchise history. Wilkens resigned at the end of the season and was replaced with Lon Kruger.
With one of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Hawks showed improvement over the next several seasons, finally making it back into the postseason play-offs in 2008. The team ended the 2008-9 season with a winning record of 47-35 and finished second in the Southeast Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The following year brought another winning season; the team advanced to the conference play-offs but lost in the second round.
In 2010 Woodson was replaced as head coach by Larry Drew, who had served as the Hawks' lead assistant coach since 2004. The Hawks finished the 2010-11 season with a 44-38 record and advanced to the conference semifinals but lost the round to the Chicago Bulls.
The 2011 season began with an NBA lockout, as owners and players argued over the terms of their collective bargaining agreement. The shortened season began in December, and the Hawks ended the regular season with a 40-26 record. The team lost in the first round of the play-offs to the Boston Celtics.
Jeffrey Denberg, Roland Lazenby, and Tom Stinson, From Sweet Lou to 'Nique (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1992).
Susan A. Kahrs, University of Georgia
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