Archive for May, 2010

Want to be Rick Sund right now? No, you really don’t

Rick Sund is dealing with more high-profile issues than any of Atlanta's four general managers right now.

Rick Sund is dealing with more high-profile issues than any Atlanta general manager right now.

Over the next month or so, Hawks general manager Rick Sund will make decisions that set the team on a path headed decidedly north or south. A case could be made that a sports GM does this every off season. But seldom does a franchise have so many significant issues at once.

Sund needs to hire a coach, resolve the Joe Johnson issue, do something to fix the rest of the roster (Mike Bibby? Marvin Williams? Center?), ease the Josh Smith headache and get this team to win a game in the second round.

All of which is why Sund’s Atlanta peers — Frank Wren, Thomas Dimitroff and Rick Dudley — all must be thinking the same thing: Glad I’m not him. Here are the four, listed in order of current job difficulty:

SUND/HAWKS: He could try to make a splash at coach and hire Avery Johnson. Or keep it in house with Larry Drew. Or hope to get somebody excited with Dwane Casey. Then he needs to convince …

Continue reading Want to be Rick Sund right now? No, you really don’t »

Countdown: Venus’s dress, Nu’Keese’s goof, Elin’s number

The Count wears slimming black.

The Count wears slimming black.

The Count used to like to show a little skin. But, you know, he never was very good at mixing in a salad, and with age and teenagers and biting too many chicks in the food court at the mall, he lost the abs and the legs. That’s where the idea for the slimming cape came in. And black. Always in black. Can you imagine what vertical stripes would do to The Count’s rear-side dungeon? But Venus Williams isn’t looking for a cape. Well, unless it comes with stilettos and a whip and a devilish smile and, um, where was I? We count down . . .

10. I see London, I see France, I see Venus’s underpants

So now we know. Venus Williams does NOT wear boxers.

So now we know. Venus Williams does NOT wear boxers (or much else).

So by now, you’ve probably seen some of the pictures of Williams’ lacy tennis dress that showed her full hiney, somewhat covered only by some hugging, sheer, flesh-tone undies and . . . OK, I’m struggling with my descriptive writing. Williams wore the Slutwear –  Yes! That’s it! Pulitzer! — …

Continue reading Countdown: Venus’s dress, Nu’Keese’s goof, Elin’s number »

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 …

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

How is Falcons’ stadium with no taxpayer liability a problem?

Arthur Blank wanted to keep Rich McKay around to be his front man for a new stadium deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC.)

Arthur Blank wanted to keep Rich McKay around to be his front man for a new stadium deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC.)

A six-pack of observations about the Falcons’ push for a new stadium, which I have absolutely no problem with (I guess that counts as one):

♦ 1. Let’s reaffirm the obvious here: Yes, owner Arthur Blank wants a new stadium so that he can make more money. With too many club seats (thousands of which go unsold at games), too few luxury suites and limited ways for Blank to generate revenue at the Georgia Dome through signage, martini bars, etc., he is at a competitive disadvantage compared to other owners, many of whom run teams that represent the Falcons’ primary competition in the NFC: Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Arizona. (Minnesota also has been pushing for a new stadium. New Orleans has been receiving concessions and is in a special situation, given the city’s economy post-Katrina).

♦ 2. We obviously have more important needs …

Continue reading How is Falcons’ stadium with no taxpayer liability a problem? »

Are Braves playing dangerous game or can magic continue?

The Braves are getting accustomed to ninth-inning comebacks, but how long can that continue?

The Braves are getting accustomed to ninth-inning comebacks. But how long can this continue?

Before Braves obscurity Brooks Conrad hit the shot heard ’round Atlanta, Pittsfield and Round Rock Thursday, I was on my way to writing a column about the recent collapse of pitcher Tommy Hanson and the team’s starting rotation.

Conrad’s grand salami in the bottom of the ninth against Cincinnati changed all that. A seven-run ninth accounted for the biggest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history. The Braves won in their final at-bat for the third straight game and eighth time this season.

Here’s the question: How long do you think the Braves can keep getting away with these narrow escapes and wins engineered by unlikely sources (Conrad, Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske, etc.)?

These things can work in a short playoff series. But over 162 games in the regular season, the Braves are going to need to start getting more production from their staples.

A brief rundown of the problem areas:

♦ …

Continue reading Are Braves playing dangerous game or can magic continue? »

Brooks Conrad has his career moment, wins it for Braves

Brooks Conrad capped the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Braves history with a walk-off grand slam against Cincinnati (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Brooks Conrad capped the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Braves history with a walk-off grand slam against Cincinnati (Curtis Compton/AJC).

This was a big moment for Brooks Conrad. Possibly even bigger than when he was MVP for Pittsfield in 2001. Bigger than when he rocked for Round Rock in 2004 (and was hit by a career-high 12 pitches). And Salem – dude, he owned Salem.

Could it be even bigger than in 2008 when Brooks Conrad, minor-league lifer, the closest thing on the Braves’ roster to Crash Davis, played for the Sacramento River Cats and was named the team’s “Best Teammate”? (Did that come with a participation trophy and a gift certificate to Pizza Hut?)

The Braves left for Pittsburgh Thursday night. Somebody will be buying Brooks Conrad dinner. Maybe a car.

Before this season, the 30-year-old had played 36 games in the major leagues and 1,103 in the minors, give or take a Motel 6. On Thursday, he exorcised every miserable night’s sleep, every seven-hour bus ride from his …

Continue reading Brooks Conrad has his career moment, wins it for Braves »

We’re live, and Braves are alive: Do you think it’s for real?

Jason Heyward has a team leading 29 RBI after a game-winning double against Cincinnati Wednesday night. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Jason Heyward has a team leading 29 RBI after a game-winning double against Cincinnati Wednesday night. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

So are you feeling a little more comfortable today, or are you still nervous about this Braves’ team?

I’ll be heading out to the stadium later for the finale of a seven-game home stand that has seen the Braves go 4-2. They are back to .500 (20-20) after a nine-game losing streak had dropped them to 8-14 and general manager Frank Wren had angry torch-carrying villagers climbing the hill to his front gates.

If we divide the season into 10-game increments — and yes, I know the season is 162 games, not 160 — here’s how things break down:

♦ Games 1-10: 6-4 record, 56 runs scored, 47 against (plus-9)

♦ Games 11-20: 2-8 record, 21 scored, 38 against (minus-17)

♦ Games 21-30: 5-5 record, 41 scored, 43 against (minus-2)

♦ Games 30-40: 7-3 record, 61 scored, 38 against (plus-23)

What jumps out obviously are the runs scored. The Braves scored 40 more runs in the …

Continue reading We’re live, and Braves are alive: Do you think it’s for real? »

Fredi Gonzalez should top Braves’ list to replace Cox

Bobby Cox to Fredi Gonzalez: "So what day should I clean out my office?" Kidding. Sort of. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Bobby Cox to Fredi Gonzalez: "So what day should I clean out my office?" Just kidding. Kinda, sorta. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 4:30 p.m.)

It’s quite possible that Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez was the leading candidate to replace the Braves’ retiring manager, Bobby Cox, even before this week. If he’s not at the top of the list now, something is seriously wrong.

Gonzalez was liked and respected in the Braves’ clubhouse when he was here as a coach. He reaffirmed what kind of leader he was this week.

On Monday night, he pulled his best, but probably most immature, player, Hanley Ramirez, out of a game for loafing after the ball.

On Tuesday, he benched Ramirez from the Marlins’ lineup in the aftermath of Ramirez throwing a fit and ripping his manager for not having the proper perspective since, “He never played in the big leagues,” and adding: “It’s his team. He can do whatever he [expletive] wants.”

Smart people are blessed with having a stop sign between their brain and …

Continue reading Fredi Gonzalez should top Braves’ list to replace Cox »

Hawks should look at Larry Drew for coaching job

Larry Drew, an assistant under Mike Woodson, has the advantage of knowing the Hawks problems.

Larry Drew, an assistant under Mike Woodson, has the advantage of already knowing the Hawks problems.

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

Who’s your first choice if these are the Hawks’ four coaching candidates?

  • Avery Johnson
  • Tyrone Corbin
  • Dwane Casey
  • Larry …

Continue reading Hawks should look at Larry Drew for coaching job »

Is it ‘hot seat’ time already for Mark Richt at Georgia?

Georgia football coach Mark Richt  (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Mark Richt is coming off a 4-4 SEC season at Georgia. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Sometime last season — probably between the 45-19 loss at Tennessee and the 41-17 loss to Florida — I lost track of the number of times I was asked on blogs, emails and radio shows if Georgia coach Mark Richt was in trouble.

My response now is the same as it was then: He’ll be in trouble if he has one more bad season. I’m not sure if that qualifies me as being among the “handful of anonymous Internet trolls,” that Bill “Junkyard Blawg” King referred to this morning.

Fact is, even most fans who wake up every morning in their Bulldog boxer shorts must understand that life in the SEC is different than any other conference in America.

This is a topic now because a few publications are compiling their coaches-under-the-gun lists. The latest came today: The Orlando Sentinel is running a five-part series on coaches on the hot seat.

Part I focused on Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez, and you can hear the laughter …

Continue reading Is it ‘hot seat’ time already for Mark Richt at Georgia? »