Hawks wouldn’t speak to Avery Johnson if it wasn’t serious

Avery Johnson signals that he has interviewed for the Hawks' coaching job twice. Kinda, sorta.

Avery Johnson signals that he has interviewed for the Hawks' coaching job twice. Kinda, sorta.

Earlier today, I gave you a six-pack of thoughts on the Falcons’ pursuit of a new stadium.

It’s lunch time now, so I think it’s safe to open a another sixer. Subject: The Hawks’ coaching search. And about Avery Johnson: I’m done dismissing this possibility.

♦ 1. It’s clear that after two years out of the game, former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson is getting antsy to return to coaching. This plays in the Hawks’ favor. Regardless of what you may read, logic says Johnson is not going to be overly demanding for a say in personnel matters if he is that determined to coach again. And honestly, even if he is, why would the Hawks be inflexible? General manager Rick Sund is nearing retirement. He will turn 60 after next season. My guess is he’ll retire in a year or two. Another reason given against Johnson’s hiring is financial. But the Hawks are a far higher priority for the Atlanta Spirit than the Thrashers (who also are looking for a coach). They are more likely to spend money on a basketball coach than a hockey coach. Finally, if they weren’t serious about Johnson, they would not have interviewed him twice.

♦ 2. I’m starting to get the feeling that all of these “insiders” writing that Dwane Casey has the “inside track” to the Hawks’ job are just parroting each other. I know this: Sund, the main guy making the decision, isn’t talking to anybody. I’ll repeat what I’ve written before: I understand why Casey is a candidate — I just don’t know why some consider him such a dynamic candidate. My sense is he’s one name in the pool — nothing more, nothing less.

♦ 3. I would hope that Sund will speak to Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. If we can assume that Doc Rivers is either going to stay in Boston or take a year off (which seems likely) after these playoffs, Thibodeau is the one potential head coach everybody should be looking at. His defenses have helped the Celtics eliminate Miami and Cleveland in the playoffs. They’re on the verge of sweeping Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals. The Hawks had made the Magic look like imminent NBA champions. (Come to think of it, they made Cleveland look like imminent champs in the second round last year. Then the Cavs got slapped by the Magic.) The two big questions about Thibodeau: What’s his offense, and is he head coaching material? Or is best suited as a super assistant? His only head coaching job: Salem State College.

♦ 4. Some are reporting that former New York Knicks guard Mark Jackson is a serious candidate for the Hawks’ job. I’d be stunned. The Hawks are trying to get to the next level in the playoffs. Why would they assume they can make that jump with somebody who never has coached? That doesn’t mean Jackson can’t be a very good head coach one day. But he would be a huge risk in Atlanta.

♦ 5. Repeating what I wrote a week ago: Don’t discount Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew. Hawks players have high admiration for him and don’t at all consider him a Mike Woodson clone. In fact, just the opposite. Drew knows the problems on this team. He knows the buttons that need to be pushed with Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. He is structured and disciplined. If Sund comes to the conclusion that Drew has head coaching potential – and he can’t get a proven commodity like Johnson — it makes sense to give the job to somebody who already knows the issues here.

♦ 6. If Sund goes the assistant rout and doesn’t give the job to Drew, I feel a lot better about Utah assistant Ty Corbin than Casey. Corbin has been studying under Jerry Sloan and is considered the heir apparent for that job. However, there is no indication that Corbin has interviewed yet.

Finally, there is no sense that Sund is close to making a decision. No reason he should be. Unless he and Johnson are ready to close a deal.

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

73 comments Add your comment

Here we go again

May 24th, 2010
12:32 pm

Chris

May 24th, 2010
12:33 pm

Here we go again

May 24th, 2010
12:34 pm

also, will the cavs go after Johnson? Would a (probably) lebron-less cavs team be a more attractive option to him than Atlanta?

John Smoltz

May 24th, 2010
12:36 pm

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks “why the long face”?

Bada Ding!

HawkKingBibby

May 24th, 2010
12:47 pm

I hope your nright Jeff. I have a bad feeling about Casey. Id rather have a guy who got his team to the finals like Avery or take a chance on finding the next great coach with Ty Corbin. I dont want a failed retread like Casey. I have to ask though dont you think that Avery is too ” rock the boatish ” for the ASG and Rick Sund. They seem more likely to hire a potential cronie.

Gary

May 24th, 2010
12:57 pm

Jeff,

I also dont understand why Thibodeau’s name has not been mentioned as a candidate. He might not be head coach material, but how would Rick know if he doesnt interview him? What I do know, is Thibodeau’s teams (Knicks, Houston and Boston) always play defense.

I dont understand what makes Casey the favorite either. Just because he is familiar with Rick from his Seattle days coaching under McMillan?

And I dont think we should hire Mark Jackson unless he has been an assistant coach for a season or 2.

Another guy noone is talking about is Greg Popovich’s lead assistant Mike Budenholzer. He is rumored to be the heir apparent in San Antonio.

HawkKingBibby

May 24th, 2010
12:58 pm

Oh yeah and Jeff I believe you have just called Mark Bradley a parrot, lol.

Not Sold on Avery

May 24th, 2010
12:59 pm

Wasn’t the knock n Avery that he could not get past the first round of the playoffs (except for the year he took over midstream)? I thought that was why Woodson was fired. I too hope the Hawks talk to Tom Thibodeau and consider Drew.

The Real Hawk

May 24th, 2010
12:59 pm

Coach with winning NBA experience only please!

allan in texas

May 24th, 2010
1:02 pm

I really believe that Avery is the best man for the job and I hope that he gets it.

TONE

May 24th, 2010
1:06 pm

Kevin Willis ! you heard it here weeks ago first , my sources are rarely wrong and they can cook a mean breakfast too.

Jody

May 24th, 2010
1:09 pm

Jeff,

I agree with you 110% on this issue. I’d also add that the Hawks need to be leary of the GM hiring a former acquaintance or yes man (someone who can’t challenge personnel decisions) instead of someone who will bring a fresh perspective, objectivity and will challenge the organization to do better. This team had a GM to hire an old buddy who couldn’t challenge his personnel decisions and we see how that turned out.

3DawgKnight

May 24th, 2010
1:09 pm

Jeff – Two things, (1) Thanks for the column.
(2) If you have time…great interview – Avery Johnson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gph8RwIYPvM&feature=related

Najeh Davenpoop

May 24th, 2010
1:12 pm

Elston Turner also deserves an interview.

tony

May 24th, 2010
1:13 pm

Mr.Sund is making a big mistake if he doesn’t sign Avery Johnson. If Cleveland get Avery to coach their team they will win a title next season. We can’t let that happen. Sign Avery Johnson Mr.Sund.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
1:16 pm

Smoltz — Thanks. Try the veal.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
1:17 pm

HawkKingBibby — Avery’s a tough guy but don’t know if I’d classify him as rock-the-boatish. Obviously if he is, you don’t hire him. But this team needs a disciplinarian and tough guy.

F-105 Thunderchief

May 24th, 2010
1:19 pm

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
1:20 pm

Gary — Budenholzer is starting to get some pub.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
1:20 pm

The Real Hawk — Obviously that limits the field for a head coach: Avery Johnson, Byron Scott, Jeff Van Gundy.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
1:21 pm

Jody — I’ll say this for Sund: He didn’t hire an old buddy in Woodson. He inherited him and gave him a two-year contract, which he didn’t have to do.

Jody

May 24th, 2010
1:24 pm

Jeff,

Very true. Let’s see what he does this time.

Jamaaliver

May 24th, 2010
1:27 pm

Viva la return de Ty Corbin!!!!
Jerry Sloan is the best coach in the league. Six years of apprenticeship under him should prepare Ty as much if not more than any other candidate we’ve spoken to.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
1:28 pm

Thanks 3DawgKNight. I’ll check it out.

steve brown

May 24th, 2010
1:29 pm

I had no doubt Kovy was gone and I have no doubt Joe is gone. The Hawks are going to take a step back and we need a coach who can actually coach and motivate younger players and give them an opportunity to get to the next level. This holds for Marvin, Josh and Al. That would be my key criteria.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
1:30 pm

all i am hoping for is a defensive minded coach that can develop a point guard and run plays. I know I am not asking much !!!
I don’t think I have ever seen the playoffs in general with as many blowouts and not just the hawks getting blown out whats up with the cavs and magic getting destroyed by boston , was boston hurt the 4 times we beat them this year ?

RORY SPARROW

May 24th, 2010
1:30 pm

I think most of these guys are upgrades over Woody, who just was out coached every night. Iso Joe on Offense. Switching Picks on Defense. Not very creative.

Just Being Real

May 24th, 2010
1:30 pm

@ John Smoltz

lol too funny!!!

LLL

May 24th, 2010
1:38 pm

The Hawks can’t afford to offer the job to someone and then be turned down. For that reason i see one of the lesser names getting the job. think Avery is more sought after and could leave them standing at the alter. That’s one of the last thing the Hawks want to happen.

emelio chavez

May 24th, 2010
1:39 pm

Why not the Crazy Van Gundy, (Jeff)?

Bringhimback!

May 24th, 2010
1:39 pm

The obvious choice that everyone is missing is Mike Fratello!! Bring him back and let’s rock the Omni!

Mike Woodson

May 24th, 2010
1:44 pm

Mike Brown and I are going to team up and coach the Clippers. I smell a championship in 2011.

ZEKE

May 24th, 2010
1:47 pm

I am getting tired of not being mentioned as a possible coach , I am a hall of famer !!!!!!
give me a call Rick
I will accept it collect.

S Hawk Fan

May 24th, 2010
1:53 pm

Jeff…. if the decision was left to you whom would you select to coach the Hawks? Also, I feel for the team that gets him but…. do you think Woody is a head coach next year and where might he fit?

RxDawg

May 24th, 2010
1:57 pm

Awe heck I’ll do it.

I’m 33 with no coaching experience, but I used to play some HORSE and pick up games in my appartment complex in college.

The Truth

May 24th, 2010
2:03 pm

As I write this I am going to tell you the truth….I am a Thrashers fan. Yes, there I said it. I have nothing against the Hawks and wish them luck but when you mentioned what we have known all along (that the Spirit Group could give a rat’s …., about hockey, well, it still hurts. There is a good core group of hockey supporters here but if the ownership group stays the same and will not sell the team to local interests, then we are gone in 2 – 3 years max.

Jeff, will the Spirit ever give us a fighting chance to prove that the NHL can be a viable entry in Atlanta? Do you see anything or any timetable to tell you different?

And now, back to the NBA talk…..

ryan

May 24th, 2010
2:06 pm

I think its going to be Avery Johnson or Mark Jackson Sund wants to make big splash and try and convince Joe to stay and maybe lure a top free agent.

STRETCH

May 24th, 2010
2:07 pm

John Smoltz!

That was too funny!!!

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
2:11 pm

Emelio Chavez — All indications are that he’s not going to coach next season.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
2:14 pm

S. Hawk Fan — That’s hard to answer without knowing who wants the job. If I’m starting at the top, I’d certainly see if Doc Rivers was interested. I’d check with Van Gundy and Byron Scott. Going 0-for-3, Avery would be next choice followed by Ty Corbin. Then Larry Drew, then Casey.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
2:14 pm

S Hawk Fan — Also, I don’t think Woodson will be a head coach next season but honestly not sure. I do think he’ll be an assistant next year.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
2:16 pm

The Truth — I think selling the Thrashers (either a minor or major part of them) is a higher priority for ownership right now. But I also think they’ll listen to Rick Dudley and try to improve the team, just within financial limits.

DP

May 24th, 2010
2:16 pm

Another vote here for Ty Corbin.

But if Sund wants Avery Johnson I don’t see why it will be a financial issue. There’s nothing that says the Hawks have to pay him what he made at Dallas. He clearly wants back into coaching and apparently nobody else is offering him $4 million. Surely Sund wouldn’t interview Johnson twice if he didn’t think they could come to a financial agreement.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
2:17 pm

How does Mark Jackson qualify as a big splash? Because he’s on TV.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
2:20 pm

Doc would be at the top of my list also , I would surely let him turn me down firtst , but that means having to wait until the celtics are done and that may be a long time the way the nba drags out these series now .if we wait that long who else is likely to be available ? do you think most of these candidates mentioned will still be available and if so do we really want them

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
2:21 pm

Mark Jackson huh never coached before or has he ?

Wilburn

May 24th, 2010
2:22 pm

PULLEEZZEEEE for goodness sakes- no Avery Johnson…..

Glenn

May 24th, 2010
2:26 pm

Very surprised we haven’t interviewed Byron Scott . He seems to get the most out of his players . Avery Johnson will want more control over personnel than we are willing to give him . Some team will give him personnel say . If I was a gambling man I would guess Tom Thibodeau gets the job . Of course that guy will be interviewed by many teams . Hawks have a good young team . Outside the Cavs , the best job available .

Ain't that the Truth, Ruth

May 24th, 2010
2:30 pm

I like how Shultz brazenly leaves his colleague Bradley out to dry. Ain’t no party line at the AJC sports, and that speaks volumes in positive way. As for Thibidinooo, or whatever his name is, why would he come here if Doc is about to leave Boston? Wouldn’t he rather coach the Celtics? Anyone would. And Doc will to Chicago if Phil Jackson doesn’t get there first. Finally, little man Van Gundy will never get Josh Smith’s respect, especially after grabbing onto that dude’s calf Yorkshire Terrier-style in that fight a few years back.

JC

May 24th, 2010
2:33 pm

So I was all ready to write a Avery-Johnson-is-just-as-bad-as-Mike-Woodson-when-it-comes-to-the-playoffs rant, but after doing my research, he’s my preferred candidate. Still young, commands the respect of his players, proven winner in the Western conference during the regular season. I like his chances.

Also, Avery’s never been swept in the playoffs, which means he knows how to adjust. Something Woodson never could.