Larry Drew may not excite you but he could just work out

Larry Drew got the Hawks' job over two other finalists, Dwane Casey and Mark Jackson.

Larry Drew got the Hawks' job over two other finalists, Dwane Casey and Mark Jackson.

They did not hire the name coach. They did not hire the proven coach. They did not hire a coach who probably makes the average Hawks’ fan think, “Yippee! This is why we drop-kicked Mike Woodson! So we could hire . . .” Um, Larry Drew?

Don’t fret. This might work out.

This shouldn’t come as some grand proclamation that Drew is going to be the next Phil Jackson, who stepped up from assistant to head coach when the Chicago Bulls fired Doug Collins in 1989. (Jackson won six NBA championships in the next nine years).

It’s not a guarantee that he even will be the next Alvin Gentry (a name you will hear often from Hawks’ management over the coming months). Gentry, who led the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference finals this year, was a six-year assistant coach with the team before finally taking over for the fired Terry Porter midway through last year.

But don’t indict Larry Drew just because he worked for Mike Woodson, the coach the Hawks just got rid of.

He’s a different coach (more creative). He’s a different guy (not so hypersensitive and paranoid). He’s a smart basketball guy. He’s tough. He’s disciplined.

Most importantly, he has one advantage over any other coach the Hawks could have hired: He knows where the problems are.

The Hawks, like most teams, have issues, both on the court and in the locker room. Their issues relate to Josh Smith’s continuing lapses in maturity (and effort); Joe Johnson’s unwillingness to share the ball (possibly the residue of Woodson’s offense); Johnson’s tendency to disappear in playoff games; Marvin Williams’ effort and toughness rarely matching his talent level; inconsistent defense on the perimeter; offensive creativity.

And maybe this: A clear willingness to knock the other team down when it’s necessary.

Drew has been up close for these problems. He knows what buttons need to be pushed. He is not going to play favorites. Practices will be tougher. Accountability will be more apparent. He also was a point guard in his playing days, which should help in the development of Jeff Teague (the seldom-used rookie under Woodson).

Don’t want to celebrate Larry Drew’s promotion? That’s fair. Just don’t assume failure. He is a different voice than Woodson. A better voice.

You wanted somebody proven. You wanted some sign that the Hawks were serious about going to the next level — which is to say, winning at least one game in the second round. Understandable.

Doc Rivers. Completely understandable. It was never going to happen.

Avery Johnson. Completely understandable. But after three interviews, Johnson either got tired of waiting or figured New Jersey was a better option, anyway.

Byron Scott, the former New Jersey and New Orleans coach, would have gotten people more excited.  So would have Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin, a former Hawk. For whatever reason, neither got a look.

So who did this come down to? Drew: 1) a respected assistant coach who knows the Hawks’ problems; 2) Dwane Casey, a Dallas assistant coach who briefly coached the Minnesota Timberwolves before being fired, possibly prematurely; 3) Mark Jackson, who went from player to broadcaster and has never coached in his life.

It’s fair to wonder if everybody in the Hawks’ front office was on the same page about this. It’s fair to wonder if Drew is capable of making the transition one folding chair over.

Just don’t assume he can’t.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog suggesting Drew was a legitimate candidate. I mentioned how he was highly regarded and respected by players, including the toughest and most respected player in the room: Al Horford.

Most readers didn’t agree. In fact, in an online reader poll of the four finalists last week, Drew finished a distant fourth with seven percent of the vote — far behind Johnson (62 percent), Jackson (17) and Casey (14).

When the Hawks open next season, it probably won’t be, “Larry Drew Bobblehead Night.”

But sometimes the exciting hire isn’t the best hire. And if Drew wins, watch how popular he becomes.

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

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205 comments Add your comment

Sonny Clusters

June 11th, 2010
7:19 pm

Sonny Clusters

June 11th, 2010
7:23 pm

Jeff, we was posting away on the last blog and this one suddenly appeared. We used our Clusters’ cat-like swiftness to be first. It’s a shame because we was talking Ralph McGill on the last blog and then this one was up before we knew it. We don’t know Larry Drew but we remember John Drew and we remember Larry Jones and both was stars here at one time or another. Both did some big walking.

@DanWeiner

June 11th, 2010
7:23 pm

He knows where the problems were? So you’re saying he just sat back and let what happened happen with this team? Jeff you can’t honestly be serious right now. The Atlanta Spirit group isn’t serious about winning, that’s the bottom line.

Beast from the East

June 11th, 2010
7:24 pm

Well Jeff, you got one thing right. Al Horford is the toughest and most respected. After all, he’s a GATOR!

aubrey

June 11th, 2010
7:26 pm

If he knows what buttons to push why hasn’t he been doing so the last 6 years. If he wasn’t strong enough to do it under Woody why should anyone believe that he is strong enough to so it on his on.

Beast from the East

June 11th, 2010
7:27 pm

I have to agree with @Dan Weiner. They’re just happy to make the playoffs. No commitment to building a championship caliber team.

Section 303

June 11th, 2010
7:27 pm

@DanWeiner, something tells me you would’ve had the same take had the Hawks hired anyone else. You don’t know how this will work out. It could be good, could be bad, could be the same. No one knows. Even the “experts” you see talking on TV are not really good at forecasting the success of a new NBA head coach. Let it play out, before you get so upset.

kb

June 11th, 2010
7:32 pm

Hawks slide further towards the bottom of the NBA again.

Terrell

June 11th, 2010
7:34 pm

@DanWeiner and others
When you’re an assistant you only have so much say. Heck! some head coaches have little say in what they can do with the team. Who is to say a “Hall of Fame Head Coach” is going to take us to the top. What do you think the Bulls’ fans were saying when Doug Collins was fired for then little known Phil Jackson? At your job can you overrule what your boss says or your team leader? No, you can’t. You can give suggestions but it’s up to them to listen. Who knows? Drew may have been giving suggestions this whole time but just like anyone of us he didn’t want to start controversy. Give it a chance first.

@DanWeiner

June 11th, 2010
7:35 pm

Section 303,

The Hawks need fresh eyes and a new perspective. They need someone who will figuratively kick some ass and challenge these guys. The problem is this roster is too comfortable in who they are what they’ve been doing because Woody’s regime allowed for them to continuously not face any consequences for continuous bad decision making.

The needed to shake up the status quo, instead they are keeping it intact. They’re doing all of this because they are too poor to hire a real coach.

"Chef" Tim Dix

June 11th, 2010
7:37 pm

Beyond the players believing in him, it’s a hard sell of an underling of the past regime that fell flat on it’s face. How do you market it?

JSS

June 11th, 2010
7:41 pm

As long as he takes Marvin Williams, Jeff Teague, and Josh Smith aside on Monday morning and says the following: “Gentlemen, the time for change has come. Here’s your DVD’s, this type of play can no longer be accepted!” I’ll have no problem with the hire. Well, that is until they fail to guard the perimeter or Randolph Morris’s name still on the roster instead of Garret Siler.

Beast from the East

June 11th, 2010
7:44 pm

Section 303 and Terrell,
I hope the guy works out. But that’s the problem. We can just hope. Why not hire a proven winner? We all know the answer to that is they won’t spend the money. Again, it comes back to the same old same old.

Barry

June 11th, 2010
7:46 pm

I, for one, am glad the Hawks didn’t do the knee jerk thing and hire a big name. I think that so far, Rick Sund has done a fine job as general manager, including giving Woodson a 2 year contract to see how things played out. Whatever the hue and cry, Woody wasn’t a terrible coach. It’s hard to fault improvement every year. But Sund let it play out and did the right thing in going a new direction. I say, give him the benefit of the doubt until proven differently. I’m optimistic they can become more of a force in the east if they will move the ball on offense and be consistent on defense.

Stuck in SC

June 11th, 2010
7:49 pm

Great Job Hawks. You just hired the next Mike Woodson Clone. And Jeff send me some of the stuff your smoking today, must make you feel real happy if you think this guy is better than what we just let go. Same old Hawks.

cheshire

June 11th, 2010
7:49 pm

It’s obviously premature to say whether this guy is going to be good, great, or terrible. What you can say though is that if the ownership is trying to keep the fanbase excited and optimistic, they could not have made a worse hire. Whether that’s fair or not is beside the point – it is what it is.

Long term that may not matter, but the problem is that SOOOOO many fans already hate the ownership and (understandably) thinks they are incompetent. They don’t have any goodwill built up that allows them to get away with stuff like this, so they really can’t afford for this coaching hire not to work out, at least not if they want their fanbase to have any faith in them. So this is a huge risk for them.

Whether it will work remains to be seen…

Hawk n the Ham

June 11th, 2010
7:50 pm

LOL. It only took 12 posts for someone to throw ‘Garret Siler’ in here.

Mercury V-8

June 11th, 2010
7:55 pm

the next phil jackson ?

cheshire

June 11th, 2010
7:57 pm

“Chef” Tim – i think you just asked the key question, which is “how do you market this?”. And that’s a different question than “was this a good hire?”. That can only be answered after he’s been coaching for awhile, so i would agree with the people who are saying that it’s premature to judge whether Drew will be a good coach.

But the question of marketability – which is more important for the Hawks than for a lot of other teams given our ownership situation, the restlessness of our fanbase, and the sour relationship between ownership/fans – has already been answered. And unfortunately the answer is that this isn’t a marketable move at all.

Whopper Dawg

June 11th, 2010
8:01 pm

Marion Campbell. I now christen Mr. Drew, Swamp Fox II.

You really have to scratch your head on this one. I look forward to picking up a 6′7″ swing man in the draft that can’t create his own shot and really doesn’t like to rebound.

JSS

June 11th, 2010
8:02 pm

@ Hawk n the Ham…
Glad to oblige! If he ain’t gonna play, better him than Collins and Morris… Hey, at least I don’t sit around having wet dreams about LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh or some high line UFA coming here. That is not pointed at you but those who do that sort of stuff. Now that you have a coach any other “realistic” roster suggestions?

BIG

June 11th, 2010
8:03 pm

Wow. the only thing I can say is the last time I was this mad with an Atlanta sports team was when the falcons picked MATTY ICE and you see how that turned out. But my goodness LARRY Drew you got to be kidding me. PLAYOFFS this team PLAYOFFS I just hope we can win another GAME. LARRY DREW you got to be kidding me. Larry Drew. WHO in the HE double hockey sticks is LARRY Drew.

Mystikal

June 11th, 2010
8:06 pm

I think he is a good hire. Mark Jackson was never a real possibility with him having now coaching experience and I personally think he puts his foot in his mouth more often than not when he broadcasts games. Between Drew and Casey, Casey doesn’t have such a glorious track record that would render him as obvious choice. With Drew already knowing the players and what went on behind closed doors he has an inside track. Hopefully he does have “some” offensive philosophy and knows how to develop players.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Schultz and Jeff Schultz, Kris Willis. Kris Willis said: RT @ajcsportseditor: Jeff Schultz: Drew knows what must be done to improve Hawks. http://bit.ly/9J7aAe [...]

JDK

June 11th, 2010
8:13 pm

Jeff,

My concern is that hiring from within doesn’t give this team the jolt it needs to break old habits. We needed to instill a little fear and uncertainty into these players, not a feeling of comfort.

But what do I know – maybe Drew will be fantastic.

The Realist

June 11th, 2010
8:15 pm

Good choice or not, Jeff, remains to be seen starting about one year from now in the playoffs. However, just one question for you: For a franchise so desperate to create some fan (and player) enthusiasm and curb the apathy toward the Hawks (can’t even sell out a playoff game in a top 10 city), How many people the next few hours, days and weeks do you think this decision will inspire to run to their phone to purchase 2010/2011 Hawks season tickets?

Crickets…..

JSS

June 11th, 2010
8:21 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
Has Tyrone Hill been fired yet?

Jt

June 11th, 2010
8:22 pm

I like his resume as well as any other of the applicants. I don’t consider Avery J a “proven coach”. He is the same risk as all the others but his upside is that he knows the players. He has inside information that the others do not have. You are right, Jeff- that puts him ahead of the others in my book. Doc ain’t coming, so Drew is as good as any. Who knows?

Terrell

June 11th, 2010
8:26 pm

Beast from the East
Even with a proven coach you can only hope. Larry Brown is a proven coach and what did he do for the Knicks?

country boy

June 11th, 2010
8:28 pm

Hawks needed a complete coaching make-over. This ain’t it.

KevinM

June 11th, 2010
8:29 pm

Really Jeff…..Drew and Phil Jackson in the same sentence? Wow, what a stretch. How about just saying Red Auerbach? Why not go all the way.
This is nothing but the same consistent, don’t rock the boat move that has gotten them into the 2nd round and can’t compete with the top teams year in year out. The time was right to make a splash and get someone ‘proven’ not someone to take over for Lon Kruger.
As always, we watch and wait and hope and the ASG continues to justify how their group still can’t make a championship contending decision.
I hope for better though, there’s always tomorrow.

preston

June 11th, 2010
8:30 pm

ok Jeff, since you obviously know much more about Larry Drew than any of us here, can you tell us what will be his imprint on this team? what sort of coach do you expect him to be? What sort of identity will this team have? And what style of offense should we see implemented by Drew??…………I am just clueless on this guy….he has ben with this team for 6 years, and I dont know anything about him.

Genius

June 11th, 2010
8:32 pm

Hope it works out like Mike Smith did for the Falcons. He was given no chance.

DanWoods

June 11th, 2010
8:36 pm

Just what the Hawks needed…Another in a string of “could just work out” coaches.

Rich

June 11th, 2010
8:37 pm

No one knew anything about Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith either. Does anyone know how that’s working out?

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:40 pm

Clusters — I like that signing in, instead of just writing, “FIRST!” It’s like “Kilroy was here.”

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:42 pm

Clusters (II) — Yeah, I had to post with similar cat-like swiftness when the news broke. And I wuz already to finally have some dinner. But you — you got some crazy skills, man.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:42 pm

@DanWeiner — He wasn’t the head coach.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:43 pm

JSS — I think that whole DVD idea is a great place to start.

cheshire

June 11th, 2010
8:43 pm

the other question you have to ask yourself here is, what does this hire do in terms of helping the roster? i mean not that this is going to make the difference in whether we have a shot at LeBron or Wade, but is this coach an attractive piece to a potential free agent? i don’t see how it possibly could be. isn’t that a bit of an issue?

what scares me about this more than anything is that it seems to put our best case scenario for the roster at re-signing Joe Johnson. that’s another way of saying “not getting any better at all, and maybe getting worse depending on what other Eastern Conference teams do”.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:45 pm

Mercury V-8 — I said that I’m NOT proclaiming him as next Phil Jackson. Did you misread that?

Delbert D.

June 11th, 2010
8:45 pm

Drew is going to need a remote-control Taser in Josh Smith’s underwear to get his attention.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:45 pm

Whopper Dawg — Marion Campbell=Larry Drew? Wow. That’s harsh, man.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:47 pm

JDK — I understand that perception. Obviously I think Drew can bring that because he’s a different guy. But we’ll find out.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:47 pm

The Realist — Definitely won’t sell tickets based on this hire. But winning will sell tickets. We’ll see.

JSS

June 11th, 2010
8:48 pm

Please don’t be like the Falcons! I know of you love so much that “we are finally average” aspect of that team. However. I’m sorry to break this to Falcons fans, but we had that already in Woodson… Shoot, Woodson actually won two playoff series! So I say thanks but no thanks to trying to emulate “Foxborough South,” I want a real winner!

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:49 pm

JSS — Hah! Well, I don’t think Drew has made any staff changes yet. But give him a few minutes.

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:50 pm

Kevin M — This is second time I’m saying this. I said I’m NOT claiming he’s Phil Jackson. Did I misread what I wrote?

Eddie Haas, Bob Weiss, and Dan Henning

June 11th, 2010
8:50 pm

Several instances in local sports history of letting go of a successful coach we thought was underperforming and then getting even WORSE results.

But this is a great column, Jeff, especially the “just don’t assume failure” line. Mike Smith should be all the evidence we need to give Drew a chance. There was way too much emphasis in this process on getting a coach who would create “buzz.” I want a coach who will create “wins.”

Jeff Schultz

June 11th, 2010
8:51 pm

Preston — Just guessing: More discipline and toughness at both ends of the floor. More offensive creativity in the half-court.