The Hawks have decided to hire Larry Drew as their next head coach, people with knowledge of the decision said today.
Drew was Atlanta’s lead assistant for six years under Mike Woodson, who was let go last month. Drew and the team are working out the details of a contract this evening and the official announcement of his hiring is expected on Saturday.
Drew, 52, emerged from a group of finalists that also included Avery Johnson, Dwane Casey and Mark Jackson. Once Johnson agreed to coach the Nets early in the week, that left Atlanta’s ownership group and GM Rick Sund to choose from among the other three candidates.
This will be Drew’s first head-coaching job after he’s been an NBA assistant for the the last 14 seasons. He worked for the Lakers, Wizards, Pistons and Nets before joining Woodson’s staff for the 2004-05 season. Drew played 714 games over 10 NBA seasons from 1980-91.
“He’s very experienced, just being around the game,” Hawks guard Jamal Crawford said. “He’s very knowledgeable. I think he is prepared for a lot of different situations.”
When Sund decided not to retain Woodson, he said the team needed “another voice” after the team lost in the second round of the playoffs the last two years. The Hawks apparently decided Drew will have a leadership style distinct from Woodson while also having the advantage of established relationships with players and familiarity with the team’s issues.
“He knows the faults of our teams,” Crawford said. “It’s not like we are a bad team. Now we can continue to build; we don’t have to start over.”
Drew inherits a team that won 53 games next season and, among its core players, has all but Joe Johnson under contract for next season. But he will face some challenges as the Hawks look to break through after getting swept in the second round of the playoffs in consecutive years.
Drew is popular among players but now his role changes from sometimes-confidant to the person in charge of their playing time and involvement in the offense. He also will have to reprimand players for their mistakes while trying to maintain relationships and team chemistry.
“Everything is going to be a first for him,” Crawford said. “But I think it will be a little bit easier transition because he knows our team. He doesn’t have to come in and learn the different personalities, what makes people tick and how to motivate them.”
When the Hawks let Woodson go, among the concerns expressed by players and management was what they considered Woodson’s differing levels of accountability. They said Woodson didn’t rebuke certain players as often as he did others, leading to some resentment in the locker room.
The Hawks also want to move away from an isolation-heavy offensive approach that was influenced by guard Joe Johnson’s playing style. Johnson is eligible to become a free agent next month, and the Hawks still want to re-sign him.
A person with knowledge of Johnson’s plans said he’s still open to returning. But the person said the new coach would have to sell Johnson on relying more on his teammates in the offense and ensure him that locker-room chemistry would improve.