There’s a chip on Mike Woodson’s shoulder the size of Mt. Rushmore. That goes to his competitiveness. It goes to studying under Bob Knight. It goes to being thin-skinned when it comes to criticism and seemingly believing that everybody is out to get him.
Well, Woodson should take comfort in this. While many consider his exit from the Hawks a foregone conclusion, Rick Sund is not rushing into any decision on his future. In his first interview since the Hawks were waxed in four straight games by Orlando in the second round of the playoffs, Sund said Wednesday that he was “ecstatic” about the regular season but “disappointed” about the Hawks’ playoff exit and “surprised” at the team’s effort in a 30-point loss at home to the Magic in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
As for insight on Woodson’s future, keep waiting. Sund said he hasn’t even deliberated on the subject yet and has had only brief conversations with the coach, whose contract is expiring.
We all want this done yesterday. Woodson wants this done yesterday. A clause in his contract actually allows him to begin talking to other teams next week. Is Sund concerned? No. In matters such as these, he moves with the pace of moon phases – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“I don’t have a time frame yet,” he said.
”In the next couple of days I’m going to formulate some thoughts. Write some things down. Analyze. What you have to do is separate emotion from analytical assessment. There’s emotional assessment and analytical assessment. From my standpoint I have to make sure everything we do is from the analytical standpoint.”
Whether he is allowed to keep his job or not, Woodson is in no position to claim Sund is not being fair about this. He is not Joe Fan in Section 119. He is not Bob from Marietta on sport stalk radio. He is not a columnist.
“I want to draw my own conclusions,” he said. “It’s the organization and ownership and management that have to make the decisions.”
He hasn’t asked Atlanta Spirit owners if the decision is his, but it worked that way two years ago. Sund was hired to replace Billy Knight and his first major decision was on whether to keep Woodson, who had an expiring contract. Sund recommended to owners that Woodson be kept but given only a two-year contract. The owners agreed.
“When I came here they said they would go with what I wanted to do,” he said.
One owner already has spoken out. Michael Gearon Jr. said he had high expectations for the team in the postseason. He certainly didn’t expect losing four straight to Orlando by an NBA playoff record 101 points. Gearon indirectly took a shot at Woodson for not giving more minutes to rookie guard Jeff Teague or playing Jason Collins and Joe Smith more in the Orlando series.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest Gearon and Sund have spoken about these things, but Sund wouldn’t comment on Gearon’s quotes.
He said he was a realist before the Orlando series. He had a staff member research the eight teams in the conference semifinals and how they fared against each other. Cleveland (13-7) and Orlando (12-8) had the best records, followed by the Hawks and Los Angeles (both 11-7).
“I knew to beat [Orlando] we were definitely going to have to bring an A game and have them bring a B game,” he said. “As it turned out, we didn’t bring an A game and they did and they spanked us.”
And why did that happen?
“I’m still looking at that,” he said.
So much for insight.
He praised the accomplishment of 53 wins in the regular season. He was less effusive about the playoffs, saying, “I’m disappointed. Everybody is disappointed.”
Asked if a better effort against the Magic would make this an easier decision, Sund said: “You’re talking hypotheticals. I don’t really respond to those.”
Others are in a hurry. But we’re on Sund’s time — and he’s using a sun dial. If Woodson wants to go, there’s the door. But his boss isn’t rushing into anything.