You can tell a lot about a situation sometimes by the meetings.
Take Michael Gearon, for example. The Hawks’ owner had a five-minute, closed-door meeting with coach Mike Woodson at Philips Arena Thursday. Then he walked down a hallway and had a 30-minute meeting with general manager Rick Sund.
Gearon said he showed up after practice only for moral support, and that his meeting with Sund was about matters other than just basketball. But let’s be clear here. Mike Woodson is in trouble.
Even amid his supportive comments about the team and noncommittal remarks about Woodson’s future, Gearon said this: “It’s our third straight year in the playoffs and we expect to go far. I’m comfortable saying that.”
Sometimes it’s also what you don’t say that’s important. At no point did Gearon say, “Mike Woodson is my guy, regardless.”
With three straight losses to Milwaukee, the Hawks are one defeat away from taking a significant step back. Woodson’s contract expires after this season, and if the Hawks lose to the Bucks Friday night and get eliminated in the first round, there’s no certainty he’ll be brought back, even after a 53-win season.
Why? Because there’s an elevated expectation level among the owners and Sund.
Gearon, however, did his best to not make his coach the issue Thursday.
“We’re focused on winning. The only thing that matters to me is tomorrow night,” he said.
“You know me. I’ve never been a reactionary person.”
When asked if he could understand why Woodson’s status has become such a major issue publicly, Gearon said: “That’s what sports is about. We’re up two games, you and I are sitting here and I’m all positive and we’re having fun conversations. Now we’ve lost three in a row and we’re going, ‘Holy [crap], what do we do?’ That’s the fun thing about sports.”
Does Woodson’s status hinge on the team’s playoff showing?
“No — I’m not going to say anything other than what I said a couple of weeks ago: My focus is the playoffs and nothing else,” he said. “All I’m worried about is a 48-minute game and coming out on top, and then if we [win], I’ll be worried about Sunday. Anything else in respect to the organization is a postseason decision.”
This much is certain. The Hawks have been outplayed in straight basketball, nothing clever, for three straight games. Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles is getting the most out of his players. Woodson isn’t.
“They’re just beating us,” Al Horford said. “Straight up. Tougher than us. Better than us. Just playing better. They’re taking on the challenge, committing to defending and doing the things you need to do.”
And the Hawks’ reaction?
“It’s not at the level it should be,” he said. “We have more to us but we’re not showing it.”
You can put it on the players. But when a team melts down like the Hawks did in the final four minutes of Wednesday’s 92-87 loss, that’s also a reflection on confidence, preparation and coaching.
These last few games have not been Mike Woodson’s best moments.