I’d be amazed if you haven’t heard the news yet. Whichever direction the Atlanta Hawks go in now, Mike Woodson will not be a part of it. According to NBA.com’s Sekou Smith (first to report it, that I know of), Woodson was told by management that he will not be offered a new contract.
So Long, So Short
No one can deny that the Hawks improved from year to year under Mike Woodson, and that is often the first thing out of the mouth of anybody who is not looking to cast him in a negative light. It can be and has been argued that his part in such improvement (going from 13 wins in his first year to 53 in this, his last) was not all, or even mostly why the team improved. One would also have to account for the moves made by former GM Billy Knight, and those of current GM Rick Sund. But that argument may be somewhat stale in the minds of many, and he does deserve credit for improvement in a number of ways. A team simply cannot improve from year to year without something going right for the guy in the suit on the sidelines.
The problem for Woodson is in the details, and in the postseason. Improvement as an end result (regular season victory total) is always good, but the result does not end with the regular season if your team is good enough. The Hawks struggled in the playoffs each time they went. Arguably, this team’s best showing under him was it’s first showing (2008), wherein they took eventual champion Boston to 7 games. As many NBA coaches have found out, you can win big in the regular season, but the postseason is where you are judged more closely. Weaknesses are exposed, strengths are exploited, and counter measures have to be taken. Under Woodson, the Hawks struggled with all three. Finally, his full body of work resulted in personal overall losing regular and postseason records.
Was it a matter of talent, experience, and effort on the court? I’d say that it was to an extent, but the other side of the coin asks whether or not use of talent was a problem as well. Either way, the Hawks go forward with a philosophy that will be different than it has been in the last six years. Mike Woodson did a lot for this team, but in the end, his full body of work was not enough for management to think he should be retained.
AJC beat writer Michael Cunningham describes the situation on his Hawks beat blog.
May Woodson L.I.P (Leave in Peace)
Whatever you may think of him, Mike Woodson was honest and had class. He never was one to publicly upbraid his players as some coaches have done. While some have done that (even to a degree of success), that was never his way. Furthermore, he was never that hard on us fans, leaving most (if not all) of his barbs for the media, when he chose to throw any.
Woodson’s resume may or may not be glowing, but it won’t keep him from getting another job. Nor do I believe that players or management will have much negative to say about him as he ships off. My guess is we’ll see him coaching somewhere else before long, maybe sooner than we expect. One place I can’t see him is on tv as some sports network’s analyst or commentator. But hey, you never know.
So long, Mike. Thanks for helping to bring winning seasons to Atlanta Hawks basketball.
The Continued Saga
Now you know this is far from over. Rick Sund is not known for his lightning quick strikes, the matching of Josh Smith’s contract offer from Memphis a couple of years ago notwithstanding. How long will he take to name a new coach? Will the Hawks be more discreet than in times past, and will they hit their mark, rather than strike out the way they used to? The rumors around the league after Billy Knight walked away (or was pushed, depending on what you believe), and that preceeded Sund’s hiring had to have been an embarrassment to the organization. Chances are, discretion will be the word of the day. Yet more questions abound. How long has Sund been planning to let Woodson go? I’ll go out on a limb and guess that few of us are willing to believe that he only came to a decision in the last 48-72 hours. What sort of coach might he be after, and will it be somebody he has worked with before?
Nobody knows, and there aren’t even any juicy false rumors to work with, yet. Sund seems like one who likes to take him time on a lot of things, but a quick strike here might be a good thing. Or will it? You’d almost have to think that the man has been doing his homework just in case Woody and the Hawks didn’t come through and show real improvement in the playoffs (which they didn’t). What do you think? Is moving relatively fast the way to go? Will the Hawks make a “splash” here, or will it be another subtle move that goes largely under the radar?
Also, what effect might this have on whether or not Joe Johnson decides to remain in Atlanta? Would he welcome a different coach, perhaps one who would modify his role? Or is he wanting to bolt no matter who comes in?
The Summer of Sund has begun. Stay tuned….