The Hawks need to keep Mike Woodson. Yes, really!

Mike Woodson: Good coach. Seriously. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mike Woodson: Good coach. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This will sound strange coming from the guy who wanted Mike Woodson fired a half-dozen times, but here it is: The Hawks need to offer Woodson a new contract today. He has earned it, and there’s no reason to let a smooth season be roiled by uncertainty.

Woodson’s contract expires June 30, 2010. General manager Rick Sund has said he’ll wait until the season ends to begin negotiations. This wouldn’t have been a big deal three years ago when the Hawks were awful and Woodson was sitting on a career record of 69-177. But it has the potential to become a big deal — or non-deal — now.

Because folks around the NBA don’t see Woodson as the guy who was 100-plus games under .500. They see him as the coach who rode out the 13-69 of 2004-2005 and now has the Hawks on pace to go 61-21. They’ll see him as a coach  who held things together long enough for talent to gather around him and who knew what to do when finally he got it. (Which is how I, who railed long and loud over his first 3 1/2 seasons, view him now.)

Woodson can be contrary. (For the record, he and I have never had a cross word in person.) He’s rightfully proud of what he has done and believes he should have been handed a new contract long ago. Asked about the matter this week, he politely declined to comment. But that’s where the contrariness comes in.

Sometimes Woodson will say, “I don’t want to talk about my situation.” Other times — usually with out-of-town reporters — he’ll bring it up. As this season unfolds and media types gather around the Hawks, the matter will become a Talking Point, the same as Joe Johnson’s stated intent to play out his contract. The difference is, Johnson is choosing to become a free agent. Woodson doesn’t want to be.

Asked if the Woodson matter could become a distraction, Sund wrote in an email: “No, I don’t think so.” I have great respect for Sund as an administrator — he did retain three big-name free agents and land Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith in one offseason — but I think he’s wrong here.

It’s generally not good policy to renegotiate while a team is playing. (What if the party in question gets offended by the team’s offer? Does he sulk for a month and therefore damage the team?) But I don’t think Woodson is looking for absolute top dollar. He’s seeking affirmation. If this lingers beyond the Hawks’ final playoff game, he might just decide to seek affirmation from another franchise.

The weird part: Hawks management showed it valued Woodson when the valuation was open to debate. Ownership rejected then-GM Billy Knight’s request to fire Woodson in February 2007, and Sund could have dumped the coach when he arrived four months later. (Woodson was out of contract then, too.) But Sund offered two years, which seemed reasonable at the time. Now he’s sticking to those two years.

When should the Hawks offer Mike Woodson a new contract?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

“We’re extremely pleased with the job Mike has done,” said Michael Gearon Jr., the chief basketball voice among ownership. “And we’ve demonstrated loyalty to him with the growth that has taken place over the last six years. That’s why he’s the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference.”

So why not just say: “Here’s five more years?” Because Sund wants to wait.

I wish I could say I understand this, but I don’t. Woodson wants to stay. The Hawks like what he’s doing. Where’s the sticking point?

There’s a chance this all gets put to rest with a 10-minute negotiation six months hence. Sund says, “Woody, you’re our guy,” and Woodson says, “Where do I sign?” But there’s risk involved. If this team reaches the Eastern Conference finals (or, gasp, goes beyond), this coach will be a hot commodity.

Not long ago, few among us would have been sad to see Mike Woodson depart, but times and dynamics have changed. The guy who didn’t seem the right coach for any team is the right coach for this team. And this is a really good team.

138 comments Add your comment

Robert

December 18th, 2009
2:09 pm

First comment and first vote? Boo-yeah!

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
2:10 pm

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
2:10 pm

who is mike woodson?

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
2:11 pm

Mark, do the hawks need a very fine defensive coordinator?

Please wait

December 18th, 2009
2:15 pm

Wait until the end of the season to evaluate. Comon the guy’s win percentage is a joke. If they have a good playoff run then maybe keep him.

SadDawg

December 18th, 2009
2:18 pm

Mark, here’s a what if. The Hawks get hot and have everyone healthy and get to the Conference finals, and push the Celtic to the brink before falling 4-3. Chicago throws a lot of $$ at Woodson. Sund frantically matches the offer, but in the ultimate f-you, Woodson says thanks but no thanks. Without Woody preaching defense to the Hawks, they win 42 games the next season. It could very well happen…..

Does anybody really care?

December 18th, 2009
2:21 pm

This is still football season – ask this question at the end of basketball season!

MSG Black

December 18th, 2009
2:22 pm

Coach Woodson will be NBA Coach of the year the Hawks need to sign him now to a long term deal

$325K for a has been DC...

December 18th, 2009
2:23 pm

…that got fired at Clemson? And we think the US Government is out of whack!!!!! I thought Willie got a raise to $325K or $350K last year!

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
2:30 pm

actually, my salary for 2009 was based on points allowed. richt didnt tell me till after the season that the more points allowed the less my salary was.

Joshgekko

December 18th, 2009
2:32 pm

No one man is bigger than the team. You can’t tell that to Woodson. I’ve heard him in the past take all the credit for the hawks’ success. That’s crap. You shouldn’t have to say how good you are, let your actions/record speak. His record is good these days, and the hawks are playing great. Problem is, his fate was sealed in my mind the day I realized how self centered he is.

nickz

December 18th, 2009
2:33 pm

No long term deal…Woodson doesn’t even coach on the sidelines at the games. He stands there with one hand on his chin and justs looks dumb & uspet when something goes wrong. Have you ever seen some of the play calls he has when the game is on the line…it consists of everyone standing still while Joe Johnson tries to dribble passed two players and end up throwing up an off-balanced fade away…pathetic. If we had a REAL coach with our group of players…we’d be the best team in the league!

RomeDawg

December 18th, 2009
2:35 pm

Good, tough coach. I hope ownership sees fit to keep him. After driving the pinto for the first few years, I hope they give him a little time in the corvette. Still not a ferrari but getting closer every year.

Daniel

December 18th, 2009
2:35 pm

Mark- I think you answered your own question. 1)Sund doesn’t want to set a precedent of in season negoitations this early in his term. 2) Woodson will resign with the Hawks in about 60 seconds. 3) If Woody continues to have success and a good playoff push(which I think he will), he can leverage the Hawks for more money… and good for him if he does.

I think this is a non-issue in the big picture.

Daniel

December 18th, 2009
2:39 pm

maybe I could learn to spell… doh

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
2:42 pm

Mark, are you saying you made an error in judgement regarding coach Woodson?

Dap01

December 18th, 2009
2:45 pm

I have been critical of Woody in the past but you can not argue with the direction that the Hawks are going this year.

If he keeps it up, extend him.

F-105 Thunderchief

December 18th, 2009
2:49 pm

Yeah, I think Woodson should be retained. But, his grousing to media about it seems a tad jerk-ish considering he’d have been fired long ago anywhere else. I mean, really, he certainly helped grow this team, but at the same time, he’s lucky he’s got the job. Weird situation. Sund can make it all right by giving him a new deal.

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
2:50 pm

a judgement from The Mount was wrong?

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 18th, 2009
2:52 pm

I think it would make a fine Christmas gift. Don’t always agree with him, and this is a gifted squad but I don’t believe they are better to this point in the season with anyone else modeling a suit.

Ted Striker

December 18th, 2009
2:59 pm

I saw the headline and immediately thought — this is the 7th Sign of the Apocalypse! If it wasn’t raining in Athens I’d be sitting on my roof singing “Do Lord” and waiting for a flying White Horseman.

p.s. I absolutely agree with the column.

Benjamin

December 18th, 2009
3:00 pm

I do think that I’ve changed my opinion on him over time, as well.

The man deserves a contract extension. I’d drop three years on the table for him this afternoon…

wxwax

December 18th, 2009
3:02 pm

The two ogres of Hawks basketball are owed their due.

The first is Billy Knight. Sure he made some mistakes. All GM’s do. But he assembled the core of this team and for that he deserves credit. Sund gets credit for re-signing Billy’s Boys plus adding Jamal Crawford, who really is a difference-maker. But let’s acknowledge, much as it may stick in our craws, that this is basically Billy Knight’s team.

The second ogre is Mike Woodson. My, how people have railed against him on these pages. But why? All he’s done is improve this team every single year. All he’s done is preach defense and teamwork. All he’s done is help create a cohesive unit that usually (Joe Johnson’s worst ball-hogging moments excepted) plays together and seems to have good chemistry. All he’s done is help transform the Hawks from flatline losers to the most exciting team in the East.

Give these men their due. They are owed our respect for the job they’ve done.

Mark Bradley

December 18th, 2009
3:11 pm

Wrong? Me? Never?

Okay. Almost never.

seed

December 18th, 2009
3:16 pm

Bradley. You are correct. I am the biggest Woodson detractor there is. That said. Woody does not have to say a word on his behalf anymore. His team’s production speaks for him. They have gotten progressively better every season for years. How many franchises in all of sports can say that.

As much as I take pride in bashing the guy, even I am willing to look at his record and concede that my issue with Woody is his STYLE. Not his RESULTS. Guess, what? I am a fan. I can do that. The Spirit Group is ownership. They can’t get bogged down with style. Results matter most.

Ironically, the Hawks and the Spirit Group are being recognized as the “blueprint” of the nba. So sure they can play the game of “where else can he go?”, but there is a lot more at stake here. At some point this reflects negatively on the Spirit.

Ever notice how, everytime there is a nationally televised game for the Hawks, all former coaches go out of their way to acknowledge the way the Spirit did such a good job by sticking with Woody? That’s a big deal. It means a lot to people in the know. Don’t waste it.

I am a designated Woody basher. I like bashing Woody.

PAY THE MAN!

It needs to be 5 years MINIMUM.

The Spirit needs to recognize that they are on the verge of establishing a tradition in Atlanta. Something Atlanta has never had. Woody is a part of that.

DON’T BLOW IT!

willie martinez

December 18th, 2009
3:18 pm

i listened to a recording of a radio interview you did last september prognosticating the uga football season. i believe you indicated running back would be a bigger problem that quarterback. and that georgia had a chance to sneak up and beat florida.

we must be very careful about what we say for the record.

Tiger Woods' Wing Man

December 18th, 2009
3:21 pm

ATLANTA SPIRIT DOES NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. THEY CAN’T EVEN SIGN KOVALCHUK…ONE OF THE TOP 10 PLAYERS IN THE NHL. IDIOTS.

A Rod

December 18th, 2009
3:22 pm

He has no offense that he coaches. It’s basically get out and run guys! that’s why orlando always crushes them. The hawks have no half court offense. We’ll see if they can beat the elite teams. All they’re doing is beating up on the garbage teams right now.

Cosmos

December 18th, 2009
3:32 pm

I’m not even an NBA fan but I say that Woodson has done some amazing work. Give the man a 3 year extension. We now have a team that ATL can be proud of.

Crashing the Glass

December 18th, 2009
3:37 pm

Funky Cold Medina

December 18th, 2009
3:39 pm

Lock him up with a contract. He’s made a great transition from 80’s rap star to NBA coach.

Ree Roe

December 18th, 2009
3:46 pm

Honestly, I don’t see the rush to resign him. Yes, we’re currently the #2 team in the East & the team has been playing lights out, but I think this team is beginning to be judged on our playoff success & that’s the way it should be. If we make a title run bring him back. If we don’t, it’s time to reevaluate

-REEcently Roe!!!

4 tickets 4 hotdogs 4 cokes

December 18th, 2009
3:46 pm

If he re-signs elsewhere, there are plenty of coaches on the market.

I hear Terry Stotts may be available.

FeudFinder

December 18th, 2009
4:00 pm

I don’t see what the delay is all about. The players had said they were playing for their team mate and coach (JJ and Woodson). They want to see them signed. It may seem like Woodson doesn’t have a good winning percentage overall, what matters is the team’s progression since he has taken over. I totally agree with MB. Sign these guys and let everybody be happy. Don’t live to regret it.

FeudFinder

December 18th, 2009
4:00 pm

Enter your comments here

Ted Striker

December 18th, 2009
4:01 pm

The 2004-2005 Hawks were 13-69 (and a horrible team).

How many other NBA coaches have gone from a similar record to achieve the regular season and playoff success of Woodson’s team? I know the Heat made vast strides last year but they lost to the Hawks in the playoffs.

What I’m specifically curious about — if anyone knows — is this: Has anyone surpassed what Woodson has done from year one of coaching the same team till now?

Diego

December 18th, 2009
4:03 pm

Woodson should consider his current deal a gift from God. He did HORRIBLY for years and was given much more time than Stotts (who did more with less) was. If Woodson wants to go let him go; no one will be knocking his door down with offers. The Hawks current success is much more a product of the team’s talent than the coach.

A FIVE-YEAR extension? That would be STUPID! Save the $ to resign Joe Johnson!

D in Atlanta

December 18th, 2009
4:04 pm

I agree with both Daniel and seed. Pay the man and make this a non-issue.
A Rod – The Hawks have beaten the NBA elite: the Celtics (in Boston), Denver, and Dallas (in Dallas). The have lost to Orlando and the Lakers (on the road). In addition, they have beaten other playoff worthy teams such as Portland, Miami, and Houston. In addition, the Hawks are the #4 team in the league in points per game. What team are you watching with your misguided comments? You are about two years in the past are’nt you?

Diego

December 18th, 2009
4:06 pm

Woodson’s team record improvement wouldn’t look so good, if he hadn’t done such a poor job early on you, yahoos! Any other coach for any other NBA team would have been given the axe 3 years ago.

FeudFinder

December 18th, 2009
4:17 pm

Diego, it seems to me like you don’t have any clues about what a progress means. Please stick with Dora “the explorer.” Love you man!!!

Mr. Thomas Anthony "The Taxman Cometh" Jones, SR (Waf-SS, Lt. Col. 13th Panzer: ret.)

December 18th, 2009
4:17 pm

Mr. Michael Woodson is one of the best haed coaches in the National Basketball Association. The Atlanta hawks need to sign him to a long-term contract now! The Atlant hawks already screwed in not signing Mr. Joshua Childress to a contract and remember they had a chance to win an NBA championship with Mr. Wilkens and ended up trading Mr. Wilkens for often injured Mr. Daniel “Danny” Mannings. No more stupid moves, hawks! Sign Mr. Woodson immediately! ASAP!

Benjamin

December 18th, 2009
4:20 pm

Never thought I’d see the day where so many Woodson fans would come out on a Bradley blog, with Bradley leading the charge. Ted, I’ve got a guitar if you’ve got room on the roof. “Do Lord” seems appropriate…

jerrywest

December 18th, 2009
4:20 pm

The real danger is losing JJ because he loves Woody too much.

Dr. Warren

December 18th, 2009
4:32 pm

Only the Atlanta Spirit is dumb enough to hold onto a coach who goes 13-69 but not resign him when he has the 3rd best record in the NBA.

Swish

December 18th, 2009
4:32 pm

He has done a remarkable job with the young talent and he is as good a coach as anyone in the NBA- give the coach an extension- what’s the hold up???

Dr. Warren

December 18th, 2009
4:32 pm

balismith

December 18th, 2009
4:35 pm

ok….so now you think the woodman can coach. He needs a new contract. For over 3 years you think the hawks need to fire him,then when things get good you want to keep him.wonder what happens in ayear or two and things go south.. what will you think then..no wonder woodson only opens up to out of town reporters,,,,,,,,,,, i wouldnt want to talk to you either

Blindog

December 18th, 2009
4:36 pm

With the talent on that roster,Mark, even you could coach the team into th3e play-offs. But as long as Woodson is there it will be a quick exit,one and done, play-offs over.

FeudFinder

December 18th, 2009
4:44 pm

It must be the rain in Atlanta today. People are losing the sense that is common. The A Rod in this blog sounds like the one I know with the Yankees. For you to say the Hawks have not beaten any elite team this season makes me think you are the only human being who wants to spend his xmas on mars. Please get a better spanish-english interpreter man!!!.

Btwarren

December 18th, 2009
4:49 pm

Some one earlier said the hawks are only beating garbage teams. Is he kidding. The Hawks have beaten the Celtics, Mavericks, Blazers twice, Denver, Heat, and Houston. The only teams they have not beaten with a winning record are Lakers, Magic, Jazz, Spurs and Suns and they have not played the suns, spurs and jazz. What more do you want.