Sund: Players Need ‘Another Voice’ After Six Years of Woodson’s

The Hawks decided not to offer coach Mike Woodson a new contract.

Woodson coached the Hawks for six seasons. The team improved its record in each of the last five years, including a 53-29 record this season that was fifth-best in franchise history, but GM Rick Sund decided the team needs a new leader.

“It was a hard decision,” Sund said. “When I analyzed and looked at it, I went round and round. Finally I think it got to the situation where the compelling thought is, ‘Maybe change is good for everybody.’ That happens quite a bit in the NBA. Maybe the players need to hear another voice, and maybe Mike needs to talk to another group.”

Sund declined to comment on the details of his evaluation of Woodson. Sund also didn’t want to discuss any potential candidates to replace Woodson or offer a broad outline of what qualities he wants in a successor.

Early media speculation has centered on Dallas assistant Dwane Casey, whom the Hawks interviewed before hiring Woodson. Sund was the Seattle GM when Casey was an assistant coach there for five seasons.

Woodson, who is free to seek other jobs, did not return a message. He has defended his tenure with the Hawks while highlighting accomplishments that include three consecutive playoffs appearances, and said he received unfairly harsh criticism for the team’s loss to Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But Hawks management had doubts that Woodson’s approach would lead to further improvement, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Among their concerns was that Woodson would have an increasingly difficult time getting through to his players if he returned.

Some players felt Woodson didn’t rebuke certain players as strongly as he did others for their mistakes, according to four people familiar with the locker-room dynamics. The differing levels of accountability led to resentment for some players , the people said.

Players credited Woodson with helping to maintain a loose atmosphere and reducing the length, frequency, and intensity of practices in an effort to keep them fresh for the playoffs. But one player said he hopes a new coach who doesn’t “play favorites” can improve the team’s chemistry.

Beyond those issues, the Hawks weren’t satisfied with Woodson’s 8-14 postseason record over the past two seasons. Last season the Hawks beat Miami in the first round before losing 4-0 to Cleveland in the semifinals. This season the Hawks beat Milwaukee in the opening round before losing in four games to the Magic by an NBA-record total margin of 101 points.

Hawks forward Josh Smith said the team’s decision to part ways with Woodson despite his success is a sign of the higher expectations for the franchise.

“It feels good to know we are not just satisfied with just being the eighth seed or improving every season,” he said. “We’ve got expectations of going to the playoffs every year and being a difference-maker in the playoffs. The organization has everything going in the right direction.”

Woodson, 52, had a 206-286 record with the Hawks. He took over for Terry Stotts in 2004-05 after previously serving as an assistant coach in Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Former Hawks GM Billy Knight tried to fire Woodson more than once during his third season but ownership rebuffed him. Knight resigned after the 2008 season and was replaced by Sund, who signed Woodson to a two-year contract after he guided the Hawks to their first postseason appearance in eight years.

Smith is the only player on the roster to play all six seasons under Woodson. The two had a contentious relationship at times but Smith said they had come to an understanding.

“It was rough starting out, but everything was smooth sailing a couple of years ago once we finally figured out what we wanted out of each other,” Smith said. “You just hate to see somebody you came in the game with leave like this.”

590 comments Add your comment

MArk

May 14th, 2010
12:24 pm

Gilley

May 14th, 2010
12:26 pm

I appreciate and respect what Woody has accomplished as our head coach but I feel we have reached our plateau with him.

Big Ray

May 14th, 2010
12:27 pm

Big Ray

May 14th, 2010
12:28 pm

Ditto what Gilley said. Woody’s probably going to have another job within a week or two, I’m guessing.

ToeKnee

May 14th, 2010
12:33 pm

it was the right time for a change.woodson was given a shot with his best roster yet and seemed unable to get the most out of it in the playoffs. hope the next coach is ready to handle a team thats been together as long as the hawks, hell have to get their attention and respect

REALIST

May 14th, 2010
12:33 pm

Decent coach, tough task, but we wish him well, hopefully he got a bonus package of some sort for the 6yrs he accomplished gains here in Atlanta.
Now the business of a veteran coach hunt begins

nickz

May 14th, 2010
12:34 pm

YES!!!!

Good riddance..some other team can enjoy his lack of game plan, lack of mid game adjustments and iso only offensive strategy.

Mr. Phil

May 14th, 2010
12:34 pm

@GILLEY

I think we can all agree. Regardless of what I have ever said about Woody, he did turn this team into a winner. I just don’t think we can reach the next level with him.

Tony from Stone Mountain

May 14th, 2010
12:35 pm

Thanks Woody I appreciated your hard work!

mike

May 14th, 2010
12:35 pm

tyrone corbin, larry drew, avery johnson?

chuckw/deadjournalist

May 14th, 2010
12:36 pm

I’m sure Woodson will get a job this season; he did a good job turning this team into what it was – a 53 win team that advanced to the second round in each of the last two years. But this is the best outcome for both sides.

A new coach won’t necessarily make the Hawks better; but the team has peaked under Woody. Good luck to him.

cheshire

May 14th, 2010
12:36 pm

i’m not one of the people who hates Woodson and i’m never happy to see someone get fired. i think he did a good job as head coach and his service is very much appreciated by this fan.

having said that, i’d have to say this is absolutely the right move. the Hawks need an X’s and O’s type coach who can motivate the players, and Woodson (for whatever reason) was not that guy. signing him would have been a bad sign to the fans and essentially a statement that we were okay with staying in the same place, which is not what we need in this city.

dap01

May 14th, 2010
12:36 pm

Shocking news!

niremetal

May 14th, 2010
12:36 pm

Forgive me for being blunt, but I thank Woodson for nothing. This team gave him far more time than he deserved. I saw no indication that he helped give our young players any direction in their development. On the contrary, he left his players to their own devices and assumed that development would follow organically. That had its benefits to a point, but for guys like Josh and Marvin, his hands-off approach to the offensive side of the ball allowed them to wander rudderless with expected results – Marvin didn’t know what to do, and Josh didn’t know what not to do.

I am firmly convinced that our young team’s development would have occurred without him. In fact, I would guess that both Josh and Marvin would be in a much better place right now with a different coach, and JJ would have put up the same box score stats with greater efficiency. He said himself that didn’t give a $h!t about offense, and it showed.

I harbor no ill will towards him for the future. But I give him no thanks for the past.

washedup

May 14th, 2010
12:37 pm

I thought he should have brought someone in to help with an offensive plan, but overall did a good job. Is Mark Price still a shooting consultant with the team? Possibility.

Dante Fitzgerald

May 14th, 2010
12:39 pm

HALLELUJAH!!!!

Kiki

May 14th, 2010
12:39 pm

Good luck Woody. Where’s Clyde?

Chip Shot

May 14th, 2010
12:39 pm

Avery Johnson is a perfect fit for the Hawks.

clay

May 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

Thank you woody for putting this team back on the map, but it was just time for a change. I believe you will go work your magic somewhere else. (applause) lol. He is probably going to chicago now and coach lebron and get a ring. shoot he is happy to go what am i talking about.

Steve

May 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

This is good news!

But thank you to Woodson for his years of contribution. He was a major part of this team’s rise.

Rock Preston

May 14th, 2010
12:41 pm

Ding Dong!! The witch is dead!!

Get Rich

May 14th, 2010
12:41 pm

I’m trying to figure out what took so long… The Hawks Management(Atlanta Spirit Group) should’ve had Mike Woodson’s walking papers printed and ready to serve by the time the fourth quarter came to an end on Monday nights game four series sweep… Now Mike Woodson, ASG, and the hawks players and fans can all move forward…

Best of Luck in your coaching future Mike…

Marcus

May 14th, 2010
12:41 pm

ditto cheshire.

niremetal, whew! Take a break and get some Mrs. Winner’s sweet iced tea.

I was wondering last nite, since all the other teams who are looking for coaches are having preliminary discussions with folks in the candidate pool, if the Gearons and Mr. Sund have their sights set on someone still involved in the 2010 playoff race ….

Barton

May 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

Tough to ditch a 50+ win coach, but you can’t lose on the road like he did in the playoffs.. Enjoy Iso-Iguodala in Philly Woody

JacketFanMarcus

May 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

It was time. But I hope the new coach can move the team forward.

Sometimes, moves like this can backfire BIG time!!!

G Money

May 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

Woo hoo! I am sorry that someone is losing his job, but when you’re making a salary of hundreds of thousands annually, the expectations are different. The expectation is excellence. That being said, he didn’t have the payroll of players that the other teams did but he certainly had talent. I think his relationship with JJ clouded his judgement. However, we are all pleased with that the Hawks made progress. We are all disappointed that they haven’t made enough.

mike

May 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

Congrats and thanks to Mike Woodsoon for an incredible 6 years in Atlanta. He helped take the Atlanta Hawks from the laughingstock of the NBA to a contender… now who’s our new coach!?

chuckw/deadjournalist

May 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

The next coach will be the ultimate verdict of this organization. Regardless of name – and regardless of JJ’s status – this team still has a lot of talent. While the idea of an offensively minded coach is top of mind with a lot of people; it was the defensive breakdowns and short comings that ultimately lead to this team’s demise.

This will be a fascinating off-season.

Spud Webb

May 14th, 2010
12:43 pm

Now can also please fire the owners and half the roster?… and we might as well run Paul Hewitt out of town while we’re at it.

D3

May 14th, 2010
12:43 pm

Don’t usually post on Hawks blog, but read often. Right in line with what many of you are saying. Woodson did a very good job of bringing this team out of the cellar and where we are now and fans should always be appreciative of that fact. However, Woodson, for whatever reason, simply couldn’t get it done in the playoffs.

Wish Woody the best, but now its gonna be fun speculating on who our next coach will be. I’ll let the experts on here handle that one since I know little about the NBA.

Marcus

May 14th, 2010
12:43 pm

Now the thing is to get a coach in here soon to figure out draft strategy and team make-up for 2010-2011.

Stockdog

May 14th, 2010
12:44 pm

Finally, he is gone. The sun is shining once again. No more Isolation plays. Movement in the offense will return. Thank God

JMar

May 14th, 2010
12:44 pm

It’s a celebration!!!

Joey

May 14th, 2010
12:44 pm

Why would Avery Johnson be “a perfect fit, Chip Shot?”

Joey

May 14th, 2010
12:45 pm

Didn’t Larry Drew work for Woody?

Walter Kronkite

May 14th, 2010
12:47 pm

Is Marion Campbell available? This team needs a taste of the Swamp Fox!

Wabe

May 14th, 2010
12:47 pm

StayThirstyMyFriends

May 14th, 2010
12:48 pm

Woody needs to coach in the NCAA. There, players will get scared when he scows and stares them down as they head toward the bench

StayThirstyMyFriends

May 14th, 2010
12:49 pm

Wow, getting rid of Woody and Bobby in the same year. Things are looking up!

JP in EP

May 14th, 2010
12:50 pm

I have mixed feelings, but agree that this is the best move. The lack of offensive imagination, not utilizing the Hawks’s obvious athleticism (could have run with the best of them, instead chose to languish in a half-court, isolation offense), not developing younger players (I bet Teague is happy), the inability to motivate his players and the poor showing in the playoffs suggests that this is the right time for a change. The question is, will they be able to find a coach that can be flexible enough to take advantage of their athletic skills. I believe that several of the players will prosper in a new system, especially Teague and Marvin Williams.

Jim

May 14th, 2010
12:50 pm

Now let’s start a campaign of Let Joe Go!!! Atlanta has too many of the same type players, Joe and Jamal are both starters and have the same type of game/range, The big difference is Jamal can break you down and get this own shot, Joe can’t. What do you need with two Joe’s or two Jamal’s?

Let him go and go find more big bodies inside.

northcyde

May 14th, 2010
12:51 pm

Now the question is . .. when this franchise hires a cheap assistant coach to replace Woody, will people be happy? If the “big name” is to come here, they better hurry up with negotiations, especially with all of these free agents out now. All these coaches probably want the Chicago job now.

Art Vandelay

May 14th, 2010
12:51 pm

Woody will have a new job before the Hawks have a new coach, but that’s fine — he’s a good coach and will be successful. But I’m happy to see that he’s been asked to be successful elsewhere.

Stuck in Kentucy

May 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

The next call should be to Bill Lambier(is that spelled right who cares I am in KY), he would be hungry enough and has rings and rep to show players the toughness it takes to get through the playoffs. I for one am not interested in another retread like Avery, Byron, or Collins. Be bold!

Ced

May 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

Thank You God!!!! Now we have a chance at getting a coach that can run a team efficiently!!! Good like Woody, but the time was past due.

niremetal

May 14th, 2010
12:55 pm

Love you Ray! I’m your lap dog! Can you feed me an original thought please?!

dap01

May 14th, 2010
12:56 pm

Buyer beware is all I have to say to Art Vandelay’s comment.

john mickins

May 14th, 2010
12:56 pm

c’mon people it’s not rocket science. let’s get someone in here who maximizes their bench, got a few or so set plays, and most importantly CAN DEVELOP A POINT GUARD!!! acie law might have been good under another coach. we never knew because woody never let him sniff the floor. i know this is atlanta but can we please stop settling for mediocrity just this once?!

What????

May 14th, 2010
12:56 pm

God has truly shined on the Hawks today!!!!!

Hoops

May 14th, 2010
12:57 pm

Coach Woodson brought the Hawks a long way during his tenure as Hawks coach. The year by year improvement was incredible!

It’s now time to move on to the next level. Who is the coach that will take the Hawks to the Championship? If I were Rick Sund, I would consult Hubie Brown and get his opinion on who would be a great fit for the Hawks personnel including JJ. If Hubie gave me three coaches names, then that would be the first 3 I would go after. In my opinion, Hubie is tuned in!