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.