Well, here we are. As reported by Hawks beat writer Michael Cunningham, Larry Drew has apparently been tabbed as head coach.
Shall there be weeping, lamentation, and gnashing of teeth? How about dancing in the streets and parading down the avenues? Maybe an extreme reaction either way is neither optimal or appropriate. But how do you define extreme, and besides – this is what blogging is about. You know, overreacting as you please, with no penalty other than a faux jab from another blogger (or fifty, depending on how big the frenzy is). Like it or not, the wheel of this ship has been taken by the first mate of the former captain. And no, it was not a mutiny (that we know of).
You Think You Know…
What should we expect from Larry Drew? Expectations are fluid and tricky. Expect too much, and you will almost certainly be disappoined. Expect too much too soon, and the effect will be similar. Is there a penalty for expecting too little? What will the players expect out of him? What does he expect of himself? All this and more will be learned as time moves on. What’s funny is that idea that perhaps what we think we know may actually be more of an unknown than we suppose. Larry Drew has been an assistant coach on this team for the past six seasons, but do we really know him? My hunch is that we really don’t know this guy. I won’t heap another coal on the head of former coach Mike Woodson, but the simple fact is that it was his voice we’ve always heard, and his philosophy. Drew has chimed in here and there, but only to more or less echo what his boss has to say. Such has been the case with all of Woodson’s assistants, with halftime thirty or forty-five second interviews being the only evidence to the general public that the guys can even talk. And you know what? That’s the case most of the time, on most teams. It’s not an anomaly. In the end, I think we will get to know Larry Drew in ways we could not possibly have, before.
Even the players will. Oh sure, the guys on the roster know him, but do they know what he would do in any given situation? Do they know what he expects of them? I seriously doubt he has taken scenarios that Mike Woodson has experienced, and said “Hey guys, I wouldn’t have done it this way, I would have done it that way.” That sort of attitude never really helps anyone, as it tends to be a breeding ground for more disruption, confusion, and division. Perhaps Drew has, however, taken a player aside and explained why his head coach made a certain decision or did things a certain way. Agreeing with your boss may not be something that happens naturally or even often, but buying into and supporting the edicts you’ve been given do help promote continuity of the team. If this is the approach Drew has taken to his job, his new job will go that much better for him and all that are involved. Sometimes the best way to lead is through influence and persuasion. Again, if Drew realizes this, he is already a step ahead. Or maybe I’m wrong and a more Machiavellian approach is what it takes. Perhaps, perhaps not. We shall see soon enough.
In the meantime, we’ll get to know Larry Drew, the head coach.
What’s In a Name?
Coining the old Shakespeare quote, I have to wonder why people get so attached to the names of coaching candidates. When is the last time YOU heard anybody say they had to get tickets for this Saturday night because the Jazz and Jerry Sloan would be in town? How about the Magic and Stan Van Gundy? Will people soon be hyped about going to watch the Cavs and (insert Tim Izzo or whoever takes the job once he says no)? If not, then why be worried about a “brand name” coach? Perception is the only answer I can think of. It’s the reason we separate the winners from the losers, based on our opinions and several skewed statistics. Actually, statistics aren’t skewed. They are just math and numbers. How we use and interpret them is another matter altogether. When a guy wins in one place, it doesn’t guarantee that he won’t lose somewhere else, and vice versa. If this is true nowhere else in the NBA, it’s true on the sideline: production beats flash every time. There’s more opinion out there on the subject as the AJC’s Jeff Schultz feels we might need to look past the lack of style and see the substance. Also, think about this: every guy available for a job has most likely failed somewhere else or never really gotten a chance. That’s the nature of the job in the League. That’s the law of experience cutting both ways. What does that mean? Like all assistants, Larry Drew has neither failed nor succeeded yet. So whether or not the glass is half empty or half full is a tale yet to be told.
Dare To Believe
As a fan base, can we get behind this decision, or will we stay hung up in the details surrounding it? In the case of management, the “why” does matter. In the case of the coach, the only thing that matters is “what.” Translation – Yes, we should be concerned with why management made a decision to go with Larry Drew. However, where Drew himself is concerned, all that matters is what he does now that he is in the position. We can only hope that he and this team do well enough to make us stop thinking so much about why management does what it does.
Maybe Larry Drew’s six years of absolute insider experience with the Hawks will help bridge the gap of those zero years of experience as a head coach in the NBA. Instead of getting to know the guys on this team, perhaps he can focus more on getting them to buy into his own system. And outsider might be more interesting, but last I looked, “interesting” didn’t win games. I have no doubts that Drew will be a “different voice.” In a way, that is a smoke screen. This team doesn’t need “different” as much as it needs “consistently effective.” There has to be something there, that’s worth having after the so-called honeymoon. Will there be an adjustment period of sorts? I would expect so. But it should also be shorter and less profound. Will there still be obstacles and challenges? Yes, but they are likely already identified, if not the reasons behind them. As much as we don’t know about Drew, we do know that he knows enough (far more than we do) about the team. Maybe that can stoke some confidence in the fan base. It certainly should do so for the team.
Odds and Ends
- Will this have an effect on whether or not Joe Johnson leaves or stays? I still think it’s all about money and opportunity for Joe Johnson. Aside from the few positive comments Johnson has made in Mike Woodson’s direction, we have no idea how he really felt about Woodson, or how he feels about Drew. There is little reason beyond that of the speculative, to think that Johnson’s decision will be heavily affected by Drew’s promotion to head coach. Then again, you can never count a factor like this out completely. Johnson has to know that some things would change under Drew, from the way they were under Woodson. At the same time, if Johnson has issues with this team, it’s going to be with his teammates as much or more as it could be with who the head coach is. While I don’t think it will ultimately sway his decision, whether or not Johnson believes Larry Drew will hold guys accountable (as in moreso than Woodson) might be a factor. The question is how much of one.
- The inevitable watch on Jeff Teague will commence from the time he goes to summer league, and Larry Drew will not be able to escape this spotlight in the slightest. Known as a point guard coach, Drew’s work with Teague will be compared, perhaps unfairly, to that of Mike Woodson and every young point guard he has dealt with the entire six years he was here. If Teague flops or struggles mightily, it will get very noisy, very fast. Drew will come under fire from both the fan base, and from his bosses (let’s not forget, this is Sund’s draft pick, and Michael Gearon has made public comments about Teague’s playing time). If Teague does well, this bodes well for Drew. Fair or not, right or wrong, this will be watched….maybe even moreso than how Drew handles Josh Smith. Well, okay, we may have a tie on that one. Another guy to watch? Marvin Williams. Do we expect Drew to turn these guys into something they aren’t, haven’t been, or otherwise? Should we? Will we?
- We have absolutely no insight into what defensive or offensive philosophy Larry Drew holds. Again, it may not be fair, but he will be judged against everything Mike Woodson did. If he does anything that Woodson used to do, he’ll hear it from the masses (until it proves to be successful on a consistent basis). But first, he will have to get the players to buy into what he wants to do. That is where the true challenge lies. I don’t know about you, but I’m a tad anxious to see what Drew does with this team.
- How much input will Larry Drew have in the draft and free agency decisions? Will Sund make a public statement on this issue? Will it matter? And though we’ll likely never find out (but you never know what will be said in the formal announcement), what WAS it that made Larry Drew’s interview presentation so impressive?
One issue decided on Hawks Fans. The Summer of Sund continues.