The Hawks — seemingly the only NBA team looking for a head coach that has not been linked to a rumor involving Phil Jackson, Tom Izzo or Jeff Van Gundy — appear close to making a decision on Mike Woodson’s replacement.
The good news is it will not be Bob Weiss. The Hawks and Rick Sund (in Seattle) both made that mistake before.
But here is your question of the day: Could you be happy with any of these four potential coaches? I’m listing the four, in my personal order of preference. I’m also posting a poll and I’m interested in both your vote and your feedback. All of this assumes that Sund has not been stashing some secret candidate in a basement, unknown to anybody with a blog or a Twitter account.
♦ Avery Johnson: He also is a candidate in New Jersey, and is the only true proven head coach of the four, with a .735 winning percentage (194-70) in Dallas. The Mavericks reached the NBA finals in his second postseason (2005-06). When they lost in the first round the next two years, Johnson lost his job. But Rick Carlisle’s inability to do much better as his successor (one playoff round win in two seasons) speaks volumes about the flaws on the roster. Johnson, known as the “Floor General” in his playing days, was a point guard as a player and probably could help the development of Jeff Teague, who played little under Woodson.
♦ Larry Drew: He probably would not be a popular choice with the public because of a perception that, since he coached under Woodson, he would be a Woodson clone. Not the case. Drew is liked and — here’s the key — respected by players. Drew would bring more discipline and structure than Woodson, a higher level of accountability and more creativity on offense. Obviously there are no guarantees when somebody moves over one seat from the assistant’s to the head coach’s chair. But the one advantage Drew has over any candidate is he has been with the team and therefore is familiar with the problems on the court and in the locker room. There have been several cases where a team fired the head coach and promoted the assistant and it worked out, but here’s one the most extreme one: Chicago Bulls fired Doug Collins and promoted Phil Jackson.
♦ Dwane Casey: He’s the only candidate other than Avery with NBA head coaching experience. By all accounts, he got a raw deal in Minnesota, getting fired by then-general manager Kevin McHale after going 53-69 in a season and a half (20-20 in year two when the ax fell). Every T-Wolves coach who has followed Casey has flopped: Randy Wittman (38-105), McHale (20-43) and Kurt Rambis (15-67). Casey, currently an assistant in Dallas, has been clamoring for this job. He’s also familiar with the problems in the Hawks’ locker room. He’s a smart guy and a good guy. Just not sure if he’s the right guy.
♦ Mark Jackson: He was a terrific player and entertaining as a TV analyst. But he has never been a coach at any level in any capacity. Everybody wants to talk about how Larry Bird (147-67) pulled it off. Nobody wants to talk about Quinn Buckner (13-69 after being hired by Sund in Dallas). (Bird also had at least been in the Boston Celtics’ front office.) I’m sure we can fund a lot of examples on both sides, but here’s the real question: Do you feel comfortable entrusting a veteran team that couldn’t get over the second-round playoff hump to a novice?
So there are the four. What do you think?