The Hawks are looking for a coach.
The Thrashers are looking for a coach.
The Braves will be looking for a manager after this season, even if Bobby Cox handcuffs himself to a pipe at Turner Field, in which case Frank Wren will probably just sweep around him.
Did a little research (it happens). Area pro and college teams have made made seven major coaching hires/fires since 2004.
Cox, who returned to the dugout in 1990, has the longest current tenure. He is followed by Georgia’s Mark Richt (coming up on year 10). Mike Woodson was third at six years until his employment ended Friday. As the list below will reaffirm, change hardly guarantees success.
I’ve ranked them in order from best to worst, although I’ll grant you that there’s significant competition for worst. Let me know if you agree with the rankings. I’ve also posted a poll, asking a simple question: Do you have confidence that the Hawks and Thrashers will hire good coaches?
Here we go:
1.) FALCONS, 2008: Bobby Petrino slithered out, Mike Smith hired. Smith has had two winning seasons (one playoff) in two years, something no head coach in inglorious Falcons’ history had accomplished. His biggest accomplishment has not been Xs and Os but creating a positive atmosphere and getting players to buy into his system after stepping into a franchise that had been damaged and humiliated by Petrino (and before that, Michael Vick’s legal problems).
2.) GEORGIA TECH, 2008: Chan Gailey fired, Paul Johnson hired. He’s 20-7 in two seasons including an ACC title, a BCS bowl berth, a win over Georgia and consecutive ACC coach of the year honors. Johnson didn’t inherit a mess at Tech (Gailey recruited well and had winning, even if unspectacular, seasons). But he got his option offense to work immediately and instilled a confidence in players we hadn’t seen on North Ave. (bowl collapses notwithstanding).
3.) HAWKS, 2004: Terry Stotts fired, Mike Woodson hired: Stotts couldn’t be completely faulted for two losing seasons, given he inherited the team’s roster mistakes and then was here for the start of the contract strip-down. Woodson won 13 games in his first year and 53 in his sixth. The record steadily improved with the roster. But he lost the attention of his team in the postseason and a new voice was needed.
4.) FALCONS, 2004: Dan Reeves fired, Jim Mora hired: Reeves took the team to a Super Bowl. He effectively was fired because Vick broke his leg, the team collapsed around him and players threw Reeves under the bus. Mora was a one-year wonder: The Falcons went to the NFC title game his first season but turned into mush heads. They folded in the second halves of seasons for the next two years. Mora merely went psycho.
5.) THRASHERS, 2007: Bob Hartley fired, Don Waddell hired himself (interim): Hartley was canned after a 0-6 start, which followed the franchise’s first playoff season (but a quick exit). Hartley also had lost the attention of his players. But most significant was how he was submarined by a handful of veterans in the locker room. Waddell did no better at the helm, in part because he was coaching the same flawed roster that he put together. Worst of all was how he didn’t give assistant coach Brad McCrimmon a chance to take over as interim until after the team had fizzled out of the playoff race and it was clear Marian Hossa had mentally checked out.
6. THRASHERS, 2008: Don Waddell out/John Anderson in: This one is more on the Atlanta Spirit than Waddell: 1) They kept him in charge; 2) They gave him a limited budget and forced him to hire on the cheap. Anderson also proved to be overmatched at the NHL level. There was a low level of accountability and the team was soft.
7. FALCONS, 2007: Jim Mora fired, Bobby Petrino hired: Falcons owner Arthur Blank went from Norman Bates to possibly the greatest coward NFL coaching circles (or professional sports) has ever witnessed. Petrino wouldn’t talk to players like men, never took the blame and quit 13 games into his first season. Check mate!