Atlanta Hawks: The Larry Drew half measure

In Orlando, the Magic fired Stan Van Gundy and said they did so essentially because he’s not a players’ coach. Or as the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins put it: “[Van Gundy] occasionally annoyed veteran players with his demanding expectations, his demonstrative sideline demeanor and his blunt assessments of their play during press conferences.”

In Atlanta, meanwhile, the Hawks exercised Larry Drew’s contract option and I’ve head fans complain he’s too much of a players’ coach. These fans covet a coach who annoys veteran players with expectations, shows more “fire” on the sideline and takes to the media to call out players (or at least the players they don’t like at that moment).

(That sounds suspiciously like Mike Woodson, except with more quotes ripping players. But I digress.)

No matter your opinion on Atlanta’s decision to retain Drew, it doesn’t seem to be a strong decision. Instead, the Hawks took half measures with Drew and pulled off the tough trick of choosing continuity without also gaining stability.

The Hawks seem not to have noticed that the one-year deal they gave Woody for 2009-10 was a factor in players eventually quitting on him. That’s not surprising since management (but not players) always dismissed that obvious angle when I brought it up. Now hear they are again asking a coach with an uncertain short-term future to guide players, the best of whom always have more security than the coach.

The Hawks could have made it clear Drew is their guy by giving him an extension and a raise that leaves no doubt among players that he’s here to stay. You should want this even if you don’t think Drew is the best coach for the Hawks because not many NBA coaches can thrive without clear support from their higher-ups. Think about it: If you believe Drew’s weakness is that he’s not assertive enough with his players, then a one-year contract and a low-end salary aren’t likely to make him better in that area.

If the Hawks weren’t convinced Drew is their guy, then they could have let him walk and take steps to show that the next coach is their guy. That would mean offering a long-term, good-money contract. If it didn’t work out, then the Hawks eat some money and try again. The best franchises regularly operate with such long-term thinking.

The Hawks look wishy-washy in regards to Drew. They touted his accomplishments while not taking unequivocal action to show they believe there are better things to come. Puzzlingly, they’ve done this without even having a GM in place beyond next month.

Unless the Hawks change course and decide to offer Drew an extension this summer, he will spend next season coaching without security, same as last season.

“I think through the course of the season [the contract] popped in and out of my mind,” Drew said on the day he learned about his retention. “I’m glad the time has come and it’s over so I have a clearer picture of where I stand in this organization. They’ve shown they are committed to what I’ve been doing and they are committed, at least for another year, to what me and my staff have done.”

At least for another year . . . .

Of course Drew isn’t the only coach who’s had to work on a high wire. But the likes of Rick Carlisle and Tom Thibodeau don’t have to worry much about their security. They have/had leverage.

And remember that Van Gundy was emboldened to annoy his veterans and call out Dwight Howard because he makes a good salary and knows he’s likely to be in demand. Van Gundy also did these things because, as he famously and awesomely said between sips of Diet Pepsi, he doesn’t like BS).

I’m neither endorsing nor condemning the Hawks’ decision to keep Drew. I’m also not suggesting his circumstances should inspire pity. Drew gets another season to prove his worth, which is preferable to unemployment.

My point is Drew, like most NBA coaches, needs relatively strong job security to bolster his authority. The Hawks organization need stability. By choosing to take a half measure, the Hawks got neither.

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

546 comments Add your comment

colorado

May 22nd, 2012
3:35 pm

Personally I like Drew. I think he deserves another year. Did a good job with what he had esp. after Al went down. Sund…. now that another story.

Sugar Ray

May 22nd, 2012
3:37 pm

Translation: Typical ASG buffoonery.

Sugar Ray

May 22nd, 2012
3:40 pm

Also, it feels like the decision to keep Drew means they are going to keep Smith and ride it out since one enables the bad habits of the other, which means more whining about missing All Star games, and they won’t get anything for him when he walks after next season.

So yeah, typical ASG buffoonery.

drmaryb .(*_*).

May 22nd, 2012
3:45 pm

Please fire that clown!

drmaryb .(*_*).

May 22nd, 2012
3:52 pm

Reports say D’Antoni could end up with the Magic. Why caint we get Van Gundy???

Skee

May 22nd, 2012
3:54 pm

The Hawks seriously need a BIG MAN! Get rid of the dead weight and cut down on that ISOLATION OFFENSE! Congrats to Larrry Drew, and hope you put a little more FIRE and INTENSITY in this team. I’ll think you accomplish the task set ahead of you. GOOD LUCK!!!

Astro Joe

May 22nd, 2012
3:57 pm

MC, let’s face it, the ASG continue to operate this team as if they are living in a house with a For Sale sign in the yard. They refuse to make decisions that may hurt their ability to quickly and cheaply leave the premises in favor of another owner. And that includes making a strong commitment to a GM or head coach. If they were so enthralled with LD that they did not need to wait and see if better quality coaching candidates would materialize during the off-season, then they should have at least offered LD 2 guaranteed years. Instead, they maintain tremendous fluidity if they just happen to get a strong offer to purchase the team.

Please, fellow bloggers, don’t embarrass yourselves by suggesting these owners are interested in the long-term well-being of this franchise or the fanbase. They are trying to “flip the house” and will only stay until a good offer comes along. Just “follow the money” and recognize that we’re being held hostage by guys who have treated our favorite basketball team like a fixer-upper. They may paint the walls but they won’t finish the basement.

Ray

May 22nd, 2012
3:58 pm

@ DrmaryB

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

To Van Gundy just no plz don’t I’d shoot myself or be the next person to jump off the Niagara Falls.

Sugar Ray

May 22nd, 2012
3:58 pm

“Congrats to Larrry Drew, and hope you put a little more FIRE and INTENSITY in this team. ”

Read the blog: If he hasn’t done it yet, it damn sure ain’t happening now.

Sugar Ray

May 22nd, 2012
4:00 pm

SVG is a Top 5 head coach. Anyone who wouldn’t want him is an idiot… that’s includes Dwight Howard.

Ray

May 22nd, 2012
4:00 pm

I’ll give you that while Van Gundy is an upgrade over both Woodson and L.D he’s got that same attitude problem that Woodson has.

I’m more in favor of Jerry Sloan or someone that will teach these guys to play with pride and heart.

Sautee

May 22nd, 2012
4:00 pm

As I said before, they missed an obvious chance to rise above mediocrity. LD is an average coach. This bunch needs more. MUCH MORE.

Completely typical of this ownership group. Do the minimum necessary to keep status quo. I don’t expect any major moves. Why would I?

Ray

May 22nd, 2012
4:01 pm

@ Sugar Ray

You think T-mac already had a problem with L.D with SVG it would be 10x worse. That’s the thing it was a lot of veteran players that didn’t like SVG.

Fundamentals

May 22nd, 2012
4:06 pm

Seems ASG takes the easy road. They tried to get market value for Josh, only to get bashed for it. Then to satisfy the whiners they overpay quickly to keep everyone in town. Now with no real way to improve the roster and take the next step we’re stuck hoping someone who’s underpaid and unappreciated to rise to the occassion. We want Drew to be our respected leader of a team who has yet to recognize anyone’s authority but their own? Seems like more of the same to me. Drew has no way to win in this situation.

Only real option to keep it together is to restructure Joe for what he actually brings to the table or trade he and one of our PF for something manageable.

The dream of this “core” putting it all together has slowly lost it’s vividness the past 2-3 years. Now we strive for mediocrity and meeting sub-par expectations. I don’t expect a championship, but laying 2 eggs in the 2nd round doesn’t show focus, maturity, heart or effort. A true disgrace after such a promising season enduring the adversity. This was the one summer to put your head down and achieve greatness. The door won’t be so easy to open moving forward with many teams improving.

I hope Joe’s legacy doesn’t overshadow the destruction John Contract brought back in the late 80’s. From there till this core had some moments that were exciting, but for the most part, pretty dismal times. This group has brought the Hawks back into the conversation. We have a real chance to gain some respect and step on stage…or we have the chance to implode yet again.

ASG decides…we can’t.

BYC

May 22nd, 2012
4:07 pm

Woohoo, another year of winning 48 games and losing in the first or second round with Joe Johnson quitting on the team and Josh thinking he’s Kevin Durant.

Just Joe

May 22nd, 2012
4:08 pm

Exactly MC…if you’re not sure you want to give the guy an extension after two years, then let him walk and try the next guy. Two years is plenty of time to figure out how he prepares his team and whether or not he has their respect).

Picking up his option accomplishes nothing unless you know already that major changes are coming over the next 12 months. One year for Sund and one year for Drew, while a major roster shake-up takes place. New GM & new coach next summer to help decide how to handle the new-found cap space and draft picks/young players that come back in this year’s trades.

Fundamentals

May 22nd, 2012
4:13 pm

Just Joe – It would make sense to dump our team for “cap” and “flexibility” for a new GM and coach to mold the franchise into what they’d like to see, especially if ASG wants to dump payroll and save cash to lower the sales price….

But who in their right mind wants to buy the Hawks?

What idiot thinks Sloan would endure what it takes to mold the Hawks into his type of team?

What GM will endure ASG’s constraints and still come out with a winning product?

The bar was set, Sund met it, the fans didn’t explode to witness mediocrity on the cusp…so we’re cutting up the farm and hoping to make it a new subdivision…forget the remodel/ house for sale option. We’re looking to sell, rezone, grade and start something new to hopefully change the culture.

W. R. Terrell

May 22nd, 2012
4:17 pm

Well, another year of watching a wannabe superstar, ISO Joe and bad coaching decisions. Will HAWKS fans survive? Yes we will to live another year.

Fundamentals

May 22nd, 2012
4:27 pm

Been here since the early 80’s with no real change in sight. We’ll be here, but will we ever get there is the question?

Joe is a great player, but he’s no Max All Star

Josh needs to establish the midrange jumper like Horford this summer to take the next step.

Al needs to remain on a team where he can use his unique talents to get recognized at the C, he doesn’t have the speed to flourish as a PF

We need a team that buys into a real offenseive set built to maximize the strengths of the TEAM, and we need a real post defender/rebounder to set the tone to relieve Josh, as his mind can’t stay focussed on TEAM defense all year, or when it counts.

Fundamentals

May 22nd, 2012
4:28 pm

We need to plant a new Tree! Tree Rollins for those who only know the core.

Harry Hawk

May 22nd, 2012
4:32 pm

Our owners are morons.

John Kontract

May 22nd, 2012
4:32 pm

I find it so interesting that the Lakers, who have recently won championships, are ready to dismantle and re-tool their team. Here in Atlanta, we maintain the status quo and ownership mentions our record of making the playoffs for five straight years. It shows quite a difference in expectations. One ownership group expects to contend for championships, another quite content just to make the playoffs. 42 Years of never making it past the second round speaks volumes and we can expect the same commitment to mediocrity going forward.

Peter

May 22nd, 2012
4:33 pm

Player quit on him ? Get rid of the lot !

Peter

May 22nd, 2012
4:36 pm

My point is Drew, like most NBA coaches, needs relatively strong job security to bolster his authority.

Really…….. the rich dumb team we have is not following orders and playing hard..can all of those looser…… please !

Fundamentals

May 22nd, 2012
4:36 pm

You said it John….

Also, did you notice how when Brown changed the system and players didn’t know their roles they failed miserably when it counted? Now they’re dismantling the team and talking new coach – IMMEDIATELY! They demand excellence, we strive to get the 4th seed and 2nd round. We came up short, but we have the injury excuse.

I don’t see ASG putting forth a winner anytime soon. The current core propelled itself beyond recent expectations with their youth…now they’re seasoned, settled vets who see the writing on the wall. It’s time to draw a paycheck and go home, so long as you meet expectations.

ASG holds the keys, we can’t even test drive.

Just Joe

May 22nd, 2012
4:40 pm

Would you rather have?

Al Horford, Jeff Teague & Fab Melo (23rd pick)

–or–

Steve Nash (4yr @ $10M per), Marcin Gortat & Kendall Marshall (12th pick)

Would Phoenix accept that trade if they knew that Nash wanted to play elsewhere. Would Nash even consider playing in Atlanta with Marshall, Joe, Marvin, Josh, ZaZa & Gortat? My 4-yr $40M contract is really inflated based on Nash needing that incentive to sign here. Could you see Nash moving to the bench after he groomed Marshall for two years? You’d basically have the PG position covered (starter & backup) for the next 4 yrs at less than $15M a season. Really depends on being able to get Marshall as the hier-apparent with Phoenix’s lottery pick, and that’s no sure thing.

Fundamentals

May 22nd, 2012
4:42 pm

Not seeing any blockbuster moves by a team with no GM or uninvolved owners.

I see Nash staying put. I like Gortat, don’t follow college ball to know Marshall or Fab Melo?

cpsman_atlanta

May 22nd, 2012
4:50 pm

BOYCOTT ATLANTA SPIRIT GROUP!!!!

chuckw/deadjournalist

May 22nd, 2012
4:53 pm

As a fan, this is disappointing, but it isn’t bad business by the ASG because it’s obvious there’s still a “For Sale” sign hanging between the “L” and the “A” on Philips Arena.

There’s no reason to tie-up long-term money into a coach or GM if the team itself is on the auction block. So, unless there’s something cooking, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them talk Sund into one more year if he doesn’t have a better option. If something is cooking – from an ownership perspective – then no reason to commit to anyone who will be replaced.

For those of us long-suffering Hawks fans (and long-time folks on here, too), it’s sad seeing the window closing on an opportunity we were all so hopeful about as we dealt the the rebuilding process a decade ago.

PaulieOldschool

May 22nd, 2012
5:20 pm

Personally, I like Drew also. I think he’s a decent assistant coach. I don’t think he’s ready for the big whistle. But it fits with the Hawks’ ownership philosophy–go cheap and stay home.

doc

May 22nd, 2012
5:22 pm

nice, about half which is what we get as fans. you have summed up the organization formerly known as asg. now, i dont know what they call their brand but they will forever be the broken atlanta spirit group to me, BASG. and they ride on making remarks at how they resemble the celts and the lakers.

the basg half measure or half azz? call it business as usual, mediocre at best.

Ra'mon

May 22nd, 2012
5:34 pm

Just Joe, I’d rather have Nash, Gortat and Marshall.

doc

May 22nd, 2012
5:37 pm

interesting look at a team very similar to us, two bigs that seem to not coexist well on the court and an aging two guard. it also mentions the futility of the 15 footer as the worst shot in basketball about four paragraphs in.

http://nba-point-forward.si.com/2012/05/15/okc-exploits-andrew-bynums-weakness/?sct=obinsite

Ray

May 22nd, 2012
5:44 pm

@ Just Joe

I’d rather have an improving Jeff Teague and Al Horford plus Fab Melo.

IF you can get me Steve Nash for giving them someone like Marvin that’s fine by me.

High-sider

May 22nd, 2012
5:46 pm

Coaching is way overrated unless your talking about the coaching abilities [or lack thereof] of certain head coaches who were former video coordinators like Mike Brown, Erick Spoelstra and [interim] Kaleb Caneles. NBA head coaches who were former coordinators are not “championship caliber” [head] coaches. LD is solid to good head coach.

prison mike

May 22nd, 2012
5:50 pm

It has been shown a mistake going for homecourt opposed to resting guys an extra week or two. Health is much more important than an extra home game, another mistake Drew made this season.

Ken Strickland

May 22nd, 2012
5:52 pm

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM-very good article. I must admit, I was expecting a one sided self serving article like the one I read by Mark Bradley, who was complaining about LDrew’s rehire. Yours was far more balanced and thought provoking. The ASG does appear to have difficulty making a committment, especially when it comes to HCs, and giving their GMs the authority to fire(BKnight-Woodson) and hire(RSund-DCasey) the HC of their choice, or to complete trades(BKnight-JJohnson).

The trade issue caused a big rift among ownership, which created an expensive, disruptive, long drawn out lawsuit.

SWAT Native

May 22nd, 2012
5:57 pm

@ MC – Great article. With both Thibodeau and Scotty Brooks (both Coach of the Year candidates and LD contemporaries) having to coach on the last year of their contracts without any extensions offered during the season, do you think that maybe this is the new way of doing business in the NBA? Especially with a first-time head coach?

doc

May 22nd, 2012
6:04 pm

for the money he earns, per victory his teams achieve, LD is a great coach. that is what is the main consideration here or for the basg. it will also be interesting t look in a few years at how the coaches did that also interviewed for the job as they are all head coaches now.

SteveW

May 22nd, 2012
6:06 pm

So some of you guys want to trade Josh (He wants out) and get rid of JJ’s contract? A bold move that won’t happen, and I don’t fully comprehend the CBA ramifications of draft picks is:

Josh for the Celts #21 and 22 in the upcoming draft

JJ for the Cavs #24, 33 and 33 picks

We then have 7 of the top 43 picks, including our own – and 6 of the top 34 picks in a deep draft.

You have ZaZa, Al, Teague, and Marvin still on the roster 28 million – Re -sign Ivan, maybe 2 mill.

Your picks will be about 7.6 mill.

37.6 mill.

Sign Dragic, Courtney Lee, and Chase Budinger from the Rockets – maybe 12.4 mill?

Sign Kaman or Asik for maybe 4 mill

You’ve got less than 55 mill in salaries for this season.

You’ve got one of the best PG’s positions with Teague and Dragic.

Al and IVan at PF

ZaZa and Kaman at C

Marvin and Budinger at SF

Lee and a 1st pick (Wroten?) at SG

3 more 1st picks – Moultrie, Fab, and Taylor from Vandy?

3 more 2nd picks

A good young, deep team.

And if you want stars, you then have the assets to trade 3 or 4 young guys for a Star – or 6 -8 for 2 stars, to go with Al, Jeff, ZaZa and the gang.

And I think the Celts and the Cavs would probably do those trades, for reasons I don’t have time to repeat from previous blogs, because I gotta run.

But just a thought….

Just Joe

May 22nd, 2012
6:11 pm

Jeff Teague against Boston avgd 14.0 pts, 3.7 reb, 4.2 asts, .8 steals, and 1.7 turnovers in 37 minutes a night on 41% shooting.

Jrue Holiday against that same Boston team avgs 12.4 pts, 4.8 reb, 4.8 asts, 1.0 steals, and 2.0 turnovers in 36 minutes a night on 43% shooting.

Holiday is a couple years younger but has started 198 games compared to Teague’s 76 starts.

Which guy ends up the better player?

KevinM

May 22nd, 2012
6:19 pm

No stability in this organization because it could be sold any day without any notification. Is it for sale? No, the ASG is committed.
I don’t take the word of the ASG on anything.

MC, if you got a chance to hear LD’s interview this am, it was pointed with tough questions that we as fans wanted to know. Problem is, LD didn’t provide any answers.

-He stood by Al’s decision to make the 2nd free throw and depend on our defense, even if the clock showed what, less than 5 seconds? Wow.

-He defends Josh to the last detail. He says 100 3 pt FGAs aren’t bad, even if you’re only making 25%. Josh’s good qualities supercede any thing he does bad. Really? In clutch situations?

LD tells us we are 1 or 2 guys away from contending. No one has evaluated anything at this point and no conversations have taken place. Plenty of time to prepare to do the same thing next season.

LD pleaded ignorance on the Gearon to Garnett comments, saying he didn’t hear much about it.

I know for a fact LD is not the coach for this team. He has some success, but so did Woody, so did Lenny, so did Hubie. He just doesn’t know how to have lots of success. It doesn’t pain him that the season is over, that they came up shorter than normal.

Whoever thinks that this team is headed in the right direction is fooling themselves. Gearon deserves no support for his lame duck approach.

Mark Bradley has it right and the majority of this fan base agrees.

Watch the Lakers…..they didn’t get it done, neither did Dallas, and neither will stand pat and just employ the same strategy that got them to the 1st round of the playoffs.

KevinM

May 22nd, 2012
6:20 pm

I say we start 2012-13 with a new, reinvigorated Marvin after spending a summer at Chapel Hill. Let’s work on his playoff FG% of .182 and get him on the right track.

Continued ignorance because our guys are good guys.

cp

May 22nd, 2012
6:22 pm

Good article MC. This ownership is a mess. I saw today that Jerry Sloan wants to get back into coaching and is interested in the Magic and Bobcats job. Really would have liked to see what he could have done with this team.

ryan

May 22nd, 2012
6:25 pm

Not much will happen this summer IMO i think we will put Josh Smith on the block and try to get some draft picks for him my guess the Hawks make a few tweaks that’s it .

Sautee

May 22nd, 2012
6:26 pm

Just Joe,

Better PG? Holliday. He’s more creative then I think Jeff can be.

Better PLAYER? Teague once he gets his puppy gone.

KevinM

May 22nd, 2012
6:30 pm

“prison mike

May 22nd, 2012
5:50 pm
It has been shown a mistake going for homecourt opposed to resting guys an extra week or two. Health is much more important than an extra home game, another mistake Drew made this season.”

If that were the truth, then LD should be getting more than a 1 year extension. What loyalty and belief the ASG has in him to bring him back for one more year. That tells me:

- LD isn’t going develop any new draft picks in the rotation. They will sit and get inconsistent spots to prove they can handle LD’s mental tough camp.

- We will have another bunch of 1 foot out of the league guys who won’t end up on another roster. We’ll get Damp back off the couch and ask him to fill in when Collins can’t get through training camp.

When does Sund start preparing for the draft? Once he signs a deal? No rush…..we’ve got 35 days to decide who we’re going to give that pick to.

KevinM

May 22nd, 2012
6:33 pm

I was responding to High siders comment: (sorry prison mike)

“LD is solid to good head coach”

glw

May 22nd, 2012
6:35 pm

Anybody think the Lakers will deal Bynum? I would think Gasol is harder to move, I wouldnt really want Gasol, seems to struggle in the playoffs. Same problem as Hawks.

Am sure the Lakers would explore a Bynum/Howard deal, but say that doesnt happen…..maybe a
Josh/Zaza for Bynum deal?

donte080

May 22nd, 2012
6:49 pm

This column made no sense….Larry Drew is a player’s coach, yet Hawks only giving him a one-year contract puts him in danger of those same player’s quitting on him?

And for the clowns who want Van Gundy…..you do realize Drew did more the past two seasons with less than Van Gundy did with the Tragic?