I’ve made it a practice to never prejudge a coach. Too many “obscure” hires have gone on to be great successes. Too many “name” hires have gone on to fall on their face.
Some people thought the Falcons were visionaries for hiring Bobby Petrino and Georgia was desperate for hiring Mark Fox. Oops.
So it follows that it would be silly to prejudge the Hawks’ next coach. However — you knew this was coming, didn’t you? — it occurred to me that given the likely parameters of general manager Rick Sund’s coaching search, a top candidate might be right under their noses: Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew.
Follow me through some of these names:
♦ Avery Johnson: How do you knock this guy? He had a .735 winning percentage at Dallas. He reached the
NBA finals in his second season, losing to Miami with Dwyane Wade, a rejuvenated Shaquille O’Neal and a pretty fare postseason coach in Pat Riley. The fact he played point guard can only help the development of Jeff Teague. For all the criticism of quick playoff exits the last two years, have you seen what Rick Carlisle has done with that Mavericks since Johnson was fired? Nothing. All that said, do I think Johnson is headed to Atlanta? No. If the Hawks can close a deal with him, it’s because the Atlanta Spirit is willing to pay more for a coach than we believe, or Johnson is willing to accept less than we think.
♦ Tyrone Corbin: The former Hawk is an assistant coach for Utah’s Jerry Sloan, one of the great and under-appreciated coaches in NBA history. That’s good enough for me. Corbin is thought of highly
enough that he’s considered Sloan’s heir apparent. He also has been mentioned for openings in Chicago and New Orleans. Pretty strong comments from Jazz guard Wesley Matthews in the Salt LakeTribune: “He’ll be a great head coach some day.” Why? “His passion for the game, and he’s tough. But he understands everything, too. And he’s going to make you better. That’s what you want from your coach.”
♦ Dwane Casey: Some perceive him as the leading candidate. Not really sure why. Hiring a coach who went 53-69 in a season and a half and was fired by the Timberwolves probably wouldn’t stir the masses. Maybe he’s a good young coach. Maybe he got a raw deal in Minnesota. I’m just saying there’s really not much to go on. But Sund knows Casey from their Seattle days so that counts for something.
♦ Larry Drew: He is a bright guy, well-liked and respected by the players. Is he a risk? Absolutely. Most assistant coaches are a risk because they’ve never been a head coach before. But here’s the advantage Drew has over other “risk” picks: He has been here. He knows the locker room. He knows the idiosyncrasies of Josh Smith, Joe Johnson (if he’s back), Mike Bibby and others. He knows the potential of Teague. Sund says he wants a new voice. The fact Drew has been Mike Woodson’s assistant doesn’t mean he’s the same voice as Woodson. Familiarity could work in his favor, not against him. He knows why defensive effort was inconsistent and the offense often fizzled in the fourth quarter.
The feeling out process for an assistant coach from the outside could be long. Only a proven outsider like Avery probably could command immediate respect in the locker room. Otherwise, there will be a feeling out process. That won’t exist with Drew. He’s worth a look. A long look.