Next coach needs to make Hawks greater than their sum

If the next Hawks' coach is doing his job well, this won't be the scene in next year's playoffs.

If the next Hawks' coach is doing his job well, this won't be the scene in next year's playoffs.

If this works out, we may not know right away. Not in October. Not in December. Not at the All-Star break. Not when Orlando comes to town and suddenly everybody decides to plays hard and together and Josh Smith says, “Hey, watch what I can do 82 games a year if I really, really felt like it! Slam!”

Mike Woodson won more games (53) this season than any Hawks coach in 13 years. Then he was drop-kicked. Why? That’s easy.

You find out about teams in the postseason, not in the Tuesday night game against the Wizards. The Hawks really weren’t any better this season than the one before when they won 47. In some ways, they may have been worse. They were stretched to seven games by a worse first-round opponent (Milwaukee) than in 2009  (Miami). They had the same problems with mental and physical toughness. Their half-court offense still struggled, particularly in tight games and in the fourth quarter. Defensive effort was inconsistent.

The biggest reason the Hawks won six more games this season was the addition of Jamal Crawford, not growth in the intangibles that make the difference in the playoffs.

Don’t be stunned if the Hawks take a step back in wins next season. Don’t be overly concerned, either.

A step back may be necessary before moving forward. There are major roster issues unresolved, starting with Joe Johnson, an impending free agent. But ultimately, what will determine how the Hawks evolve will be whether they can play like Milwaukee did after losing Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd. Or like Phoenix (the least talented of the NBA’s Final Four) is playing now.

“The sum of our parts has to better,” general manager Rick Sund said. “I’m not one of these people who think if you don’t have an MVP candidate you can’t win. We have to take that point of view that Detroit did. We can have a great team with the sum of our parts. We can have camaraderie. We can will our way to the championship round. You have to have confidence. You have to have some mental toughness along the way. You have to have trust.”

Sund claims he struggled with this decision. I doubt it. I’m guessing his words are mostly for effect. He has had doubts about Woodson for two years, even when he gave him the extension in 2008 after taking over for Billy Knight (who also had doubts and recommended firing him but was turned down by ownership). Sund knew this team, even if unchanged in personnel, could start to slide.

But he speaks in grays. There aren’t a lot of specifics. It’s like he’s trying to keep you guessing.

Sund will tell you, “We needed a new voice,” but he won’t specify what he didn’t like about the old voice. It’s your job to fill in the blanks.

“For many of these players, [Woodson] is the only person they heard as coach,” he said. “The same training camp. The same pep talks. The same post-game talks. Sometimes change is good in the situation.”

It would be great if Sund and the Atlanta Spirit owners were able to hire a proven coach (Avery Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy). More than likely, that’s not going to happen, either because the job won’t be considered desirable enough or  the owners won’t write the check that it would take to get it done.

But a big a name isn’t necessary. Alvin Gentry was fired by the Clippers. Generally, that’s considered bottom. Now he has Phoenix in the Western Conference finals.

The question is what available and likely low-budget candidate — Tyrone Corbin, Dwane Casey, Dan Majerle, Larry Drew among them — can turn the Hawks’ into a team.

Sund again: “I’m hoping we’ll have some growth from within. I’m hopeful a coaching change will change some things.”

Is there risk involved?

“Sure there’s risk,” Sund said. “But there would’ve been risk involved if we give Mike a new contract, too. Either way, if you’re not successful, people are going to point it out to you, and if you are successful than they won’t.”

This must we know: Success won’t be defined in the first 82 games.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

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101 comments Add your comment

TIM McCORMICK

May 15th, 2010
2:05 pm

Mark Jackson or Byron Scott would command instant respect from our two stubborn stars, Joe and Josh. Or from whoever we get in a sign and trade for Joe. Jackson seems to know his stuff. Byron Scott’s track record is very impressive (although he has a curious habit of getting fired right after big success…)

wxwax

May 15th, 2010
2:23 pm

It’s easier to judge and assemble talent than it is to create good team chemistry. Actually, it’s so hard that chemistry’s the wrong word: it’s more like alchemy.

None of us, probably including Sund, will know if he’s found the right ingredients until the playoffs next year.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 15th, 2010
2:27 pm

“Will our way to the Championship round…” That’s the type of definitve talk skeptical fans want to hear. Please no more next level crap. There is always just one goal. The Flowery Branch crew speak that language and mean it.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Next coach needs to make Hawks greater than their sum http://bit.ly/8XQfPH [...]

Jonathan

May 15th, 2010
2:32 pm

Both Byron Scott and Avery Johnson sound good. But also Tyrone Corbin who has been an assistant at Utah could bring the toughness – seeing how Jerry Sloan does the job – the Hawks need to play hard night in and night out even thru adversity. The first two mentioned though would be good to bring Teague along. Unless we trade for a new point guard, he should start next year. Bibby needs to be relegated to bench status augmenting our three-point shooting corps at times. Otherwise, he is a defensive liability against most guards he faces.

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
2:44 pm

Surprising how two of the priorities last off-season were re-signing MWilliams & Bibby; both turned out to be huge mistakes.
I think Sund was right to let Woody go; a change was needed. But Woodson is a good NBA coach and will be successful elsewhere.
I remember when the Lakers hired PJackson and Shaq said “I listen to him, he has the rings”. My thought then was, what if MJ had not listened to Jackson BEFORE he got the rings? So what is Shaq saying; a coach has to have “the rings” before the players will respond to him?

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
2:54 pm

…and if so; how many available coaches have “the rings”?

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
4:05 pm

WOW! 7 comments after over 2 hours! Really a hot topic!

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
4:07 pm

Guess everyone is on the Braves blog! (or is there some new, developing uga story?)

Marco Santerio

May 15th, 2010
4:18 pm

I’m confused. I thought Coach Woodson was fired because the Hawks wanted to “raise the bar”. Now we’re supposed to be prepared to take a “step back” as well?

If the Hawks are going to take a step back, then why fire a coach who has proven he can take a team from 13 wins to relevance?

Rick Sund needs to stop selling the Detriot model because it has worked once in the modern era. If you need further proof, take a look at the list of Finals MVP’s and with a few exception, you not only need a superstar, but he best be a HOF candidate as well.

Along with a superstar, or near super star playing at a super star level, championship teams also have something else in common and that is HOF coaching. or championship pedigree That is what the Hawks should be after right now. Start building your team with coaching and acquire the players to fit the coach’s system.

At the very least, the Hawks should be looking for their Bobby Cox not Russ Nixon.

i_am_soulstar

May 15th, 2010
4:18 pm

I’ll take Avery Johnson if they agree not to mic him up in the lockerroom or huddles, I’d rather breakdance on hot coals than listen to his voice.

Derick Richards

May 15th, 2010
4:22 pm

Jeff, I’d like to hear what Mike Fratello (remember him) has to say about the Hawks’ situation. Seems that the Hawks fired him, saying he could take them no further in the playoffs, that the team had quit listening to him, and it took this franchise nearly two decades to get back to the level that he had reached with them. You hang around long enough and you can watch history repeat itself. I hope that won’t be the case here.

Tha Real Hawk

May 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

We need experience in the NBA. Hopefully a coach will be hired after the owners receive new money from new investors. A quality coach will cost money.

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

i_am & Derick:

Both great points!

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
4:28 pm

Marco:

Agree!

Najeh Davenpoop

May 15th, 2010
4:47 pm

If you look around the league, a disproportionate number of head coaches and assistant coaches are former point guards. It’s not easy for fans to be able to tell whether an NBA coach, especially an assistant, is going to be good, because there are a lot of factors involved that we are not in a position to observe (unlike football where how high a coordinator’s unit is ranked year after year is a pretty good indicator of how effective of a head coach he will be). Assistants in the NBA are not specialized enough to be able to predict their head coaching success by observing the success of the team. But seeing as how Jerry Sloan, Scott Skiles, Nate McMillan, Byron Scott, Avery Johnson, Lenny Wilkens, and so many other successful coaches are former point guards, I’d like to see the Hawks look in that direction.

Tha Real Hawk

May 15th, 2010
5:00 pm

Fratello was on 790 the zone this week.

Resign or Resign?

May 15th, 2010
5:04 pm

Jerry Sloan was never a point guard!

True

May 15th, 2010
5:14 pm

I’m disappointed at the players who turned on him. You will never get anywhere in your life being mean spirited and backstabbing. It will eventually catch up with you.

Delbert D.

May 15th, 2010
5:34 pm

Nonlinear equations, quantum mechanics or string theory?

[...] Jeff Schultz of the AJC: You find out about teams in the postseason, not in the Tuesday night game against the Wizards. The Hawks really weren’t any better this season than the one before when they won 47. In some ways, they may have been worse. They were stretched to seven games by a worse first-round opponent (Milwaukee) than in 2009  (Miami). They had the same problems with mental and physical toughness. Their half-court offense still struggled, particularly in tight games and in the fourth quarter. Defensive effort was inconsistent. [...]

Jeff Schultz

May 15th, 2010
6:45 pm

Chef Tim — agreed. I liked that quote.

Jeff Schultz

May 15th, 2010
6:45 pm

Jonathan — I would like anybody who studies under Jerry Sloan, one of the most under appreciated coached ever in the NBA.

robdawg08

May 15th, 2010
6:56 pm

Why doesn’t Sund tell us also what players they are targeting in free agency ? I’m hearing all over sports talk radio that if ‘D.wade and C.Bosh go to Heat or Bulls they can be a deep playoff team, heck if those two go together to ANY team including the Hawks that team will be a great team. Ditto for any two top stars deciding to play for the same team.

Marcus

May 15th, 2010
7:06 pm

robdawg,
Management has said that resigning JJ is 1st priority (player personnel-wise) so coveting midl-level free agent X [insert name here] might stall or reduce what slim chance Sund believes he has to resign JJ. I think JJ is a goner, regardless.
Besides, would(n’t) it be considered tampering if any NBA team openly talked about a player before free agency started? Keep in mind, it is mostly us fans, ESPN, bloggers, newspaper and web media folks, etc. who talk about Lebron, Dwayne Wade, Bosh, going wherever.

Sautee

May 15th, 2010
7:16 pm

Derick Richards,

You said this about Mike Fratello: “Seems that the Hawks fired him, saying he could take them no further in the playoffs, that the team had quit listening to him, and it took this franchise nearly two decades to get back to the level that he had reached with them. You hang around long enough and you can watch history repeat itself. I hope that won’t be the case here.”

Hey Derick, did you realize that even Fratello himself had “fallen from the level he had reached”. His last season here the Hawks were a .500 team.

Seven of the next 8 years we improved on the 41-41 record. And seven years after Fratello’s best year (57-25) that record was matched by Lenny. It was not until 98-99 that we fell into the NBA depths.

If your going to talk about history repeating, at least get the history right.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 15th, 2010
7:29 pm

“I would like anybody who studies under Jerry Sloan, one of the most under appreciated coached ever in the NBA.”

Sounds logical, except Mike Woodson studied under Larry Brown, who is every bit as respectable a coach as Jerry Sloan, and Woodson didn’t have what it took to get the job done.

I really don’t think it’s possible for us fans to come up with any logical way of determining who is and who isn’t a good NBA head coach from where we sit. There’s really no overriding quality that they all have.

Whopper Dawg

May 15th, 2010
8:03 pm

I would make Skiles say no. Real interesting decision time for Sund, my money is that he will take a flyer on an inexperienced coach t.o save the cash. M WIlliams and Bibby were mistakes last year that a blind man could see coming. Picking Williams over the point guards in that draft will haunt this franchise a long time.

ryan

May 15th, 2010
8:11 pm

Man i give up i am done with Hawks and Atlanta sports teams Atlanta is never going to be champion Atlanta is never going to have a superstar. I am just disapointed in what i am hearing from Jeff Shultz.

Big Ray

May 15th, 2010
8:35 pm

Jeff Schultz ,

Excellent article. Big-time hit on the “might have to take a step back, we won’t know in 82 games” theme. That is definitely something people need to be thinking about.

Marco Sentario ,

One problem with the MVP talk. The NBA Finals MVPs aren’t named until the Finals are over. So you never know who is going to be the Finals MVP, you only know who has been.

One problem with the HOF coaching talk. Which coach is a HOFer, that would be available, that doesn’t already have a job? Find one, then recommend him to the GM. As far as I know, Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, and Jerry Sloan are unavailable. So is Larry Brown. To a lesser extent, neither is George Karl, Nate McMillan, Rick Adelman, or Mike D’Antoni (and I’m still not sure just how good he is).

Here’s the good news: Three of the last six guys to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award are available. Wait, is that good news?

Big Ray

May 15th, 2010
8:38 pm

If you look around the league, a disproportionate number of head coaches and assistant coaches are former point guards. It’s not easy for fans to be able to tell whether an NBA coach, especially an assistant, is going to be good, because there are a lot of factors involved that we are not in a position to observe (unlike football where how high a coordinator’s unit is ranked year after year is a pretty good indicator of how effective of a head coach he will be). Assistants in the NBA are not specialized enough to be able to predict their head coaching success by observing the success of the team. But seeing as how Jerry Sloan, Scott Skiles, Nate McMillan, Byron Scott, Avery Johnson, Lenny Wilkens, and so many other successful coaches are former point guards, I’d like to see the Hawks look in that direction.

I’ll co-sign that and even make the monthly payments. :) Point guards are the most heady players on the floor at any given time, in general (not always the case). They don’t call them floor generals for nothing. I like this way of thinking.

S Hawk Fan

May 15th, 2010
8:50 pm

Get Brian Shaw off the Lakers staff. A former Point Guard who is in line to replace Phil Jackson. Anyone good enough for the Lakers certainly would qualify here!

ryan

May 15th, 2010
9:00 pm

I hope the Hawks can at least get Avery Johnson or Casey.

Steven A.

May 15th, 2010
9:20 pm

Must trade Horford for draft pick+1 player. However, preferred would be a sign and trade with Raptors
for Bosh. OFFER Horford-Marvin-Bibby for Bosh…, salarys match. Also, Iso Joe has failed the “clutch
player” litmus test. PLEASE, we must sign and TRADE JOE JOHNSON for market value.
Does this make basketball sense Mr. Jeff Schultz? I believe Al Horford and Marvin Williams lack the
mental make-up to ever see themselves matching up and defeating the Orlando Magic. As a matter of
fact, with the exception of Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford, the rest of the Hawks need to visit
“the WIZARD” and ask for a heart and some courage!

david

May 15th, 2010
9:34 pm

Please don’t get Avery J or Casey. Get Byron Scott, Collins, Jackson or Fratello. Make JJ a happy camper and let’s see what we can do with Orlando the next couple years. They are awesome and probably going to be king of the east for awhile. I think with proper direction and JJ we can get past Boston and Cleveland. We have a good thing going, just have to toughen up a bit and not make a bad hire with our coach. There are a FEW coaches that would work. We have the potential to make a coach look awfully good. Respect, Defense, tweaking the roster (replacing weaknesses with strengths) and a good game plan will go a long way with talent.

Buckhead Basketball

May 15th, 2010
9:49 pm

You can’t hire a head coach who does not have HEAD coaching experience with THIS team! This team is not the team it was years ago when Woodson took over- they grew UP!

So, you can completely disregard the following names:

1. Thibedeau is out- He has never been a head coach on any level and if he was THAT good- how come he hasn’t gotten a job yet? Honestly, he has been interviewing for years. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

2. Ty Corbin? Sure- he has worked under Sloan who is one of the NBA’s best coaches and Corbin has a bright future but you don’t give the keys to a 50 plus win team to someone who has never been behind the wheel.

3. Brian Shaw? Again, has never been a head coach and just because you coach under Phil Jackson doesn’t mean you will be a great coach. Just look at Curt Rambiss in Minnesota this year!

4. Mike Fratello/Jeff Van Gundy/Doug Collins- Funny…they ALL got fired and are now in the public eye on TV and are suddenly smarter? Again, Van Gundy’s entire time in Houston, he could not get them out of the first round and yet His replacement did it in only his second year! And why is Jeff Van Gundy such a hot name?

The list of names who SHOULD be candidates is actually pretty small……

Jody

May 15th, 2010
9:57 pm

I’m saying it now. If the Hawks truly believe that they will get better in the playoffs by simply changing the coach (essentially blaming all the failure on Woody), then they are fooling themselves and being delusional. This whole “we hope to have growth from within” talk sounds to me like they don’t feel like they should do much if anything at with the player personnel and that’s plain silly. If you think that Mike Woodson was the only thing wrong with this team, you’re fooling yourself.

S Hawk Fan

May 15th, 2010
10:01 pm

Sounds like noone will be coaching the Hawks according to some! If the Lakers think so highly of a person that has never been a head coach… then that is good enough for me! Appears as if the Lakers organization might be a step or two ahead of us common fans!
And doesn’t ever head coach have to have his first? And please don’t count college…. apples and oranges!!

Mystikal

May 15th, 2010
10:16 pm

Somehow i did not realize we were supposed to be following the Detroit model. That would explain why ppl realistically thought we had a shot. We were built to do maybe a game or 2 better than we did last year and that’s what happened. Detroit model won’t work for this team.

1) you can’t have holes in the starting lineup. Bibby was a walking liability and Marv was far too inconsistent
2) All players have to know their roles or at least have roles. Have to play as a team also and Iso-Joe or Iso-Crawford are not team friendly offenses
3) Detroit team was made up of veterans who had fell out of favor in other places and came together on a mission. This hawks team is far too wet behind the ears.

underdog

May 15th, 2010
11:45 pm

NOW IF YOU ASK ME AND YOU DIDNT IM GOING 2 TELL U ANY WAY THE HAWK MUST BEAT OR SPILT WITH WITH OLANDO. HOW DO THEY DO THAT FRIST OFF THEY AND A LOT OF TEAM CANT STOP SUPERMAN BUT EVEN SUPERMAN HAVE A WEAKNESS YOU NEED THREE 7 FT CENTER TO BANG ON HIM MAKE HIM COMMIT FOULS GO STRATE AT HIM TURN THOSE 3 PT SHOOTER IN 2 JUMP SHOOTER IN THE LANE AND FOR OUR NEXT COACH HOW ABOUT DOMMONIQ AND MARK PRICE AND PLEASE CAN WE RUN THAT HOW THIS TEAM WSA PUT TOGETHER

northcyde

May 15th, 2010
11:54 pm

Mystikal and Jody . . exactly.

Save the Teachers

May 15th, 2010
11:55 pm

If we can’t get Avery Johnson or Jeff Van Gundy next best thing would be Dwane Casey.
Casey looks like he can control a team and discipline the players.

Any chance we can get Yao or Shaq?

We need to sign Joe Johnson and later trade him to the Nets For Harris

Ed Stone

May 16th, 2010
12:04 am

You could bring in Phil Jackson or John Wooden and you wouldn’t get any better results with the players we have. Josh Smith is trash, Mike Bibby is not even a has-been, because he never was and Joe Johnson needs to go somewhere where he is the second or third option.

cdog

May 16th, 2010
12:11 am

the only other coach who will be better than woodson would be pat riley or avery johnson.riley, would be a perfect fit so will avery johnson,both have had their teams in the finals whether it be coference or championship game. i still think rick sund over did things. woodson had his in position to win for the past 3 seasons which should have warranted him to be the hawks coach for next season..these are the only two coaches out there who know their stuff when it comes down to the players.xs and os are a must but you got to know how to get your players to buy into what your system is plus you got to kmow how to handle young men also woodson showed these quality same old story by the white media and fans, when a black coach win its always has to be said is that he won off of talent but when a white coach wins its always how smart he is which is a bunch baloney.what goes around comes sund.you just wait and see.your head has already been placed on the chopping block next season for the way you treated mike woodson. sund fired woodson because of his dislike for the man but next season he will be under the microscope.

True

May 16th, 2010
12:34 am

Cdog thank you I was just going to write in about how there is differnce between how black and white coaches are evaluated. Why is always that save old slave mantility. The white man masters everything a black man has no brains just talent.

Gimme a break

May 16th, 2010
12:40 am

No woody ain’t the only thing wrong with this team. But replacing him is a start.

Hawkeye

May 16th, 2010
1:11 am

Keep everyone you have, hire Paul Westhead and let him run “The System.” Problems solved. Stop Blogging!

TreeRollins

May 16th, 2010
1:24 am

I don’t think you fire a man who wins 53 games, and has a successful season. It’s all about patience and incremental improvement, and by any measure, Woodsons’ season was a success. To say he couldn’t take the team any further is a hypothetical which wasn’t given much of a chance to be borne out. Most argue it was all about the playoffs this year, but so what? Atlanta wasn’t expected to defeat Orlando, and guess what? they didn’t. Atlanta was expected to defeat Milwaukee and they did. Let’s not get bogged down in the game by game breakdown when the thing is just about wins and losses. Fire Woodson when he’s shown he’s no longer moving the franchise forward, not as a knee jerk reaction to a disappointing playoff appearance.

I think Sund would have given him another chance, were we living in a world, where the local media (Tweedle Dee Schultz and Tweedle Dumber M.Bradley to name a few) and the fan base aren’t sounding the charge for change on a daily basis.

This arguement that Woodson took the team as far as it could go is absurd based on reasonable expectations, and in my view, is just a result of the fair weather nature of Atlanta Fans, and the nastiness of Atlana media outlets-that’s you knuckehead Schultz and forever a moron Mark Bradley (I remember hating your ridiculous prognostications when I was a teanager, and here I am, approaching middle age and you’re still employed by this sorrowful newspaper)

matt

May 16th, 2010
1:53 am

rumor has it the hawks won’t even pay $2 a year for their coach. if that’s the case those assistants coaches named will get their turns.

Tater in Iraq

May 16th, 2010
2:18 am

True……What the h*ll is “old slave mantility”?