A new coach for the Hawks? Be careful what you wish for

He's not the greatest coach in the history of hoops, but he's not the worst, either. (AP photo)

He might not be the greatest coach, but he's not the worst, either. (AP photo)

Mike Woodson is a free agent at season’s end. He says he wants to stay, but he has been nettled by Rick Sund’s refusal to offer an extension. And if the Hawks crash out in Round 1, Sund’s hesitance might turn out to be sagacious. For all the good work Woodson has done here, wouldn’t a loss to the understaffed Bucks suggest that this team and this coach have gone as far together as they’re going to go?

But know this: Woodson is respected around the league. He’ll be a head coach somewhere next season, and he might well get a better offer than a re-up from the Hawks. Already the annual Larry Brown rumors have commenced, the latest ticketing the nomad’s nomad for Philadelphia, where he’ll become team president and hire his buddy Woody to coach the 76ers.

So now, as the Hawks face a rather enormous Game 5 tonight, we must ask: If not Woodson, who? The drums will beat for the usual suspects — Avery Johnson, Byron Scott, Eddie Jordan, even Sam Mitchell — but I can’t see any of them as an upgrade.

Johnson presided over one of the biggest flops in NBA finals history, taking a hugely gifted Dallas team and losing to Dwyane Wade. Scott had the benefit of coaching two of the finest point guards of the era — Jason Kidd and Chris Paul — and still contrived to get fired by both the Nets and the Hornets. Jordan,  seen as the brains behind Scott with New Jersey, has been fired three times and his most recent team, the Sixers, quit on him. Mitchell, who grew up in Columbus and played at Mercer, had one winning season over four full years before being dumped by Toronto.

If the Hawks indeed wind up searching for a coach, they won’t be seeking someone to preside over a rebuilding team. This is a gifted roster that’s getting close to what should be its peak years. (This applies even if Joe Johnson flees, which I don’t believe he will.) The next coach should be someone who could take what Woodson has done and lift it higher.

To be frank, there aren’t many available coaches who fit that bill. Gregg Popovich isn’t walking through that door; Doc Rivers isn’t, either. And the biggest name on what some believe to be Sund’s wish list — meaning Doug Collins –  isn’t all that big.

Doug Collins has coached three NBA teams over eight seasons. He hasn’t taken a team to the NBA finals. He has won a total of three playoff series, all with Chicago in the ’80s. He was fired by the Bulls to make way for assistant coach Phil Jackson, who started winning titles by the bushel. Collins has since been canned by both Detroit and Washington.

He’s a high-profile guy because he’s on TV, but so is Jimmy Fallon. Besides, Collins keeps turning teams down. What about Atlanta would make him want to do it again at age 58?

If there is to be a Woodson replacement, it’s apt to be a current NBA assistant. Tom Thibodeau is Rivers’ defensive coordinator in Boston, but would he have the cachet to make a roster of guys now making huge money listen? (Maybe.) And don’t the Hawks need a guy to redesign the Iso-Joe offense more than another defensive-minded man?

Were I Sund, I’d target Dwane Casey. He was a head coach in Minnesota, where he was fired 40 games into his second season. But the T-Wolves have become an example of how not to run a basketball operations, and Casey has worked alongside two of the best in business — Nate McMillan in Seattle and now Rick Carlisle in Dallas. Casey is smart and personable and good with his players, and he has the added benefit of having served under Sund with the Sonics.

I know what you’re thinking: Dwane Casey isn’t a household name. That’s the point. The Hawks aren’t going to land one. (Would Rick Pitino leave Louisville to work for the Atlanta Spirit?) And honesty compels me to report that, as much as I like Casey — he’s a Kentucky guy, too — I don’t know for a fact that he’d do better than Woodson.

161 comments Add your comment

Peter

April 28th, 2010
12:46 pm

YES the Spirit…is hardly an intelligent organization !

ATMDAWG

April 28th, 2010
12:54 pm

Woody is over rated. I think the only reason Joe has not signed yet is because he wants Woody gone. The Hawks have improved because of new draft picks not coaching! We have no offensive plays, and Woody can not make adjustments (like changing up the defense in this series). I would like to see some zone played against the Bucks for example. Unless we make it to the finals, it’s time for a change.

ChippersLoveChild

April 28th, 2010
12:56 pm

I have never understood the love for Doug Collins, please someone explain it to me. I vote Terry Stotts.

Ron Jirsa

April 28th, 2010
12:57 pm

What about me?!?

El Bravo

April 28th, 2010
12:58 pm

If we don’t make it out of the first round (and even if we have another poor showing on the second round) then we must make a coaching change. The new coach may be better or worse than Woody but we should not settle for the status quo. I would rather be in the lottery than be a perennial “also ran” in the playoffs…

gcs

April 28th, 2010
1:02 pm

Go get Lakers coach Phil Jackson. He has got to be getting sick of Kobe by now…

.

TONE

April 28th, 2010
1:06 pm

I have only been able to see a few of the games this year and they were mostly road losses but i noticed that sometimes woody will not call a timeout when things go south the hawks may trail by 4 or 6 and when he finally calls a timeout or there is a tv timeout they are down by 15 or more , I was just curious if this is the way he coaches or if I just happened to see a few games where he tried to let the players play through and stop the run . I am not a pro I have only coached young kids but I would always use a timeout to stop another teams momentum if they were on a major run and I have seen good coaches do the same . so i was just curious about this part of Woody’s gameplan

El Bravo

April 28th, 2010
1:07 pm

And say what you will about Avery Johnson but he did coach under Don Nelson and if someone knows offense is Nellie. Don’t forget that Dallas was his first venture as a head coach and not many coaches are able to win a championship with their first team. Also, Avery was a very intelligent point and we definitely need someone to develop Teague (I do know that Woody is not the man for that job)…

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

April 28th, 2010
1:08 pm

wasn’t there a story about Doc Rivers maybe leaving boston after this year ? Why wouldn’t he consider Atlanta other than they won’t pay him what he can get somewhere else

RomeDawg

April 28th, 2010
1:11 pm

I don’t know if anyone can do more than Woody with the team and I can’t believe any coach worth having would come to work for the dysfunctional Atlanta Spirit. What is Joe Johnson’s relationship with Woody and would that make him more or less likely to resign?

F-105 Thunderchief

April 28th, 2010
1:11 pm

Terry “Tater” Stotts. Actually, Doc Rivers sounds pretty good. Woody isn’t necessarilly awful, I just think there are coaches who could have accomplished more with the same rosters.

PlusSizeModel

April 28th, 2010
1:12 pm

I always find the notion that qualified coaches are rare to be laughable. It’s not brain surgery, it’s coaching basketball. I’m sure there are plenty of assistants working their way up that are of above average intelligence who would do just fine as head coaches. Frankly, I think most ex-NBA players are the worst choices. If they were bright to begin with they’d take their millions and do something else with their lives besides the grind of an NBA season.

gtm

April 28th, 2010
1:13 pm

The tunnel vision in coaching hires is getting really old. I’d prefer the thought process be similar to yours regarding Casey. Why is being famous a prerequisite for being a good coach? And determining whether a coach is good or bad based solely on his record or playoff history is ignorant of the effects of the players, owner, organization, etc. on the team’s performance.

Let’s find someone with the right coaching skills and ignore the noise.

PlusSizeModel

April 28th, 2010
1:14 pm

And for god’s sake, NOT DOC RIVERS! He was a big reason the 80’s Hawks never cracked the ceiling—he never figured out how to be an effective point guard.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

April 28th, 2010
1:16 pm

Mark
get the coach for TC williams High on the Phone (yes its a real school not just a movie school ) (remember the Titans)
Mr. king is a basketball genius

Greg

April 28th, 2010
1:21 pm

Game 5 tonight is only enormous in the small scheme of this particular series….the outcome of which no one will particularly care about or remember. It’s hard to convince anyone to care when these two teams are merely playing for the right to get squashed in the 2nd round where a sweep is likely and 1 win would be a “moral victory”.

That’s not acceptable. If Woodson can’t take them to the next level(and he most certainly can not), then they need to at least give someone else a shot.

atlienforlife

April 28th, 2010
1:23 pm

The obvious choice, with a little forward thinking is Lawrence Frank. He is an excellent coach who squeezed the most out of a New Jersey team, who by the way didn’t have much more than Jason Kidd. Kenyon Martin, kerry kittles, please!!!

Mr. Phil

April 28th, 2010
1:28 pm

How about that got from Butler? Brad Stevens. Not that I will choose him over Woody. But as reported before, it may not be in Rick Sund’s hands to decide.

Ted M

April 28th, 2010
1:28 pm

Paul Hewitt that would be the only way to get him out Tech.

Mr. Phil

April 28th, 2010
1:30 pm

there is a historical basis for what I am proposing. Usually when you can not get a real quality coach, NBA teams just hire a hot name. Stevens is pretty hot.

TONE

April 28th, 2010
1:31 pm

No to Hewitt he already underachieves with NBA talent

KennyD

April 28th, 2010
1:32 pm

Yep ! the coach with Bibby (couldn’t guard his front door), Evans (Not a clue when he’s in the game), Joe Smith (Brings NOTHING) and Williams(Why the hawks didn’t get Chris Paul CP3, we blew that one, YOU THINK). It’s going to be HARD to keep Joe Johnson in Atlanta (Prime fit with the LAKERS)

By the way, do the Hawks have a Center ?
I will always be a True Hawks Fan ! Go Hawks!

SWAT Native

April 28th, 2010
1:32 pm

Mark,

Does it also strike you as odd that this rumor surfaced the day after the Hawks most disappointing loss of the season? I smell a rat.

kent

April 28th, 2010
1:33 pm

ur a freaking genius! You say the Hawks in five, the braves are contendors and the Falcons based on the draft will make the playoffs. What qualifies you to write about sports?

TONE

April 28th, 2010
1:35 pm

woody is using the rumor for a bargaining chip just like hewitt did years ago with st johns , I wonder if woody will get an automatic rollover contract with the hawks .

Will

April 28th, 2010
1:35 pm

Woodson gets on my nerves too!!! but we don’t know the whole story and we will not get anyone better. I second that motion….be careful what you ask for.

Mr. Phil

April 28th, 2010
1:35 pm

@kent: Hey Mark ain’t so bad. AJC’s had much worst in the past. I won’t bring up former employees, just saying.

C'mon Hawks

April 28th, 2010
1:41 pm

Kareem Abdul Jabbar has always wanted to coach a team, he already works with Josh Smith i believe. Who ever we get needs to be offensive minded-we could easily have a high octane offense.
Run things thru horford and smith

@DanWeiner

April 28th, 2010
1:46 pm

Anybody with half a brain who has watched this team knows Woody needs to go. Just watch them. Lazy, unmotivated, unwilling to work, it’s an indictment of the coach and his staff.

Here’s the catch, I don’t think Woody’s necessarily a bad coach, but this group of players tunes him out. They’ve been with him for so long without great success, lets remember the team’s win improvement each year has as much to do with roster improvements as anything, and you see that it’s time for both parties to go in different directions. It’s time. The Hawks are never going to win with Woody as coach. Will they win without him? Maybe, maybe not but it’s time to find out.

moorman

April 28th, 2010
1:46 pm

well, like i said in another column, the hawks problems STARTED when they hired a GROUP of investors to buy the team. this put them in the original position of NOT being all on the same page when it comes to the direction of the team. like u said above mark, the hawks dont have direction. no defense, no particular kind of offense, no identity, just a assemblage of players who couldnt help but win games because of the number of times they been in the lottery. lots of people keep saying avery johnson, but dallas got tired of his whiny mouse voice after a coupe seasons, how you think the youngsters in atlanta would put up with it, lol. there are TWO coaches i would hire to fix this mess, larry brown and doc rivers and neither is headed this way.

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
1:48 pm

THE HAWKS OWNERS ARE SO POOR THEY HAVE TO LOWBALL A !@#$%Y HEAD COACH AND SELL A PICK JUST TO RESIGN A PLAYER WHO ISN’T EVEN A SUPERSTAR!
LOL

CJ

April 28th, 2010
1:48 pm

I don’t know why questions about why Woody hasn’t gotten a new contract keep coming up. Sund clearly deals with things in the offseason. We’re still an elite team in the East and have bigger things to worry about like making the Finals.

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
1:51 pm

Sam Mitchell is underappreciated. He has been out of coaching long enough. How about Paul Silas?

Surely a black coach wants to coach this squad. OMG JEJE ARE YOU RACIST?

Chris

April 28th, 2010
1:51 pm

Mark….WHY ARE WE EVEN NAMING CANDIDATES?? Are people Blind??
Woodson took this team when the roster was nothing….nobody else wanted to coach the Hawks, no players wanted to come here and we won 13 games in a season. Now we are the #3 seed in the East and a Contender. Players consider coming here because they view the Hawks as a team that is not far away from winning a championship. ISN’T IT TIME WE GIVE WOODSON CREDIT FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE HERE???

Give the guy his due…..He paid his dues by taking this team when it was crap and building it to what we see on the floor today. It’s time to show him our appreciation. Give him the contract extension…let”s quit with the finding a replacement chatter, and let the guy finish what he started.

Co Co

April 28th, 2010
1:53 pm

I’m going to go ahead and assume he didn’t watch Game 4 before he wrote this. (just as one glaring example of the shortcomings of one Mr. Woodson) Don’t tell me Mike Woodson is the best the Hawks can do. I tend to think that a coach who makes no adjustments, doesn’t develop rookies, and thinks the only reason his team ever loses games is because of their effort, is not irreplaceable.

NC Braves Fan

April 28th, 2010
1:53 pm

Mark – your post brings up the dilemma the Hawks face this offseason. Woody may well have gotten this team as far as it can go with him at the helm … but who out there is equipped to help the Hawks take the next step (if not Woody)?

It’s the devil you know vs the one you don’t scenario.

And as much as I or enyone else would care to complain about the Hawks’ performance in the playoffs – things could be much, MUCH worse than they are now with this team (is most of the past decade not a reminder of this?!).

Kem

April 28th, 2010
1:54 pm

Mark,

You are way off on Avery Johnson. He was the main reason Dallas had the record they did that year.

They have been average at best since he got canned.

Their squad was suspect- including Dirk N. (MVP who did not show up when needed in the Finals).

D-Wade was the main cog, but MIA still had a pre-Phoenix/pre-Cleveland Shaq who still had something left in the tank. Also had a competent supporting cast- James Posey, Haslem, Zo, etc.

UGASlobberknocker

April 28th, 2010
1:55 pm

I have to disagree about Avery Johnson..I didnt think he was at all responsible for the Dallas flop. In that series his best players couldnt throw it in the ocean. Plus I feel that after a while, even the best coach’s message gets stale..Woody’s is not only stale but moldy too. Johnson would light a fire..I think he is the obvious choice and the best coachj out there right now (not employed).

PMC

April 28th, 2010
1:55 pm

This is what people say all the time about the Braves… but how many corporations do you know that have the same CEO for 20 years and continually succede?

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
1:55 pm

WOODSON SAID HE OVERPLAYED JOE LAST YEAR SO HE’D GET AN ALL STAR BERTH
ALL WOODY CARES ABOUT IS REGULAR SEASON RECORD

HE HAS NO DEFENSIVE SCHEMES, BUT CLAIMS TO BE A DEFENSIVE COACH. WATCH HOW MANY PLAYERS WERE OPEN IN GAME 4 ON P&RS. YOU HAD GADZURIC DRIVE TO THE AIRPORT AND BACK BEFORE A HAWKS DEFENDER REALIZED HE WAS OPEN

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
1:56 pm

“and let the guy finish what he started.”

aND WHAT’S THAT?

FIRE WOODY

Peter

April 28th, 2010
1:56 pm

I think the Spirit ownership sits in a room, and wonders how much are we going to Loose Money wise each season, each year……

Rock Preston

April 28th, 2010
1:56 pm

@Dan Weiner …..u hit it on the head. Woody has taken them as far as he can. Thats not saying he is GARBAGE (close to it though) but sometimes a new voice is needed. Cuban did it in Dallas….Avery shouldnt have been fired but the team tuned him out. There is a difference.

PMC

April 28th, 2010
1:57 pm

it doesn’t really matter anyway because they need a lottery pick to get a point guard.

Marvin Williams and his horribly average/below average play killed this team. It may be the worst pick in franchise history even worse than Konkak because of when it came.

UGASlobberknocker

April 28th, 2010
1:58 pm

I always wonder why the Bradley bashers continue to come on this blog. If you dont like Mark,,then dont read him…and then we wont have to read your crap on his blog.

Its kinda like when you tell the doctor” it hurts when I do this”..and the doctor says “well then dont do that”. If you dont like Mark..then read somebody else.

Harry Hawk

April 28th, 2010
1:59 pm

I think Bob Weiss is available

Co Co

April 28th, 2010
1:59 pm

Also, it would be different if Woody had taken this team to the ECF or heck if they’d won at least one game in the second round, but he hasn’t. Why are we acting like he’s irreplaceable?

Marcus

April 28th, 2010
2:03 pm

MB,
I feel ya. This is my post from 4/27 on Schultz’s blog on the same topic:

—————-
See multiple problems here …. we basically hit the the ‘reset’ button if that yahoo! scenario goes down:
1. This Hawks team, clearly talented and clearly flawed, needs its 2010 1st round pick to get a player in here to address our obvious defensive shortcomings.
2. If we are that cash-strapped such that we have to sell our 1st round pick to keep JJ, then we likely don’t have enough money to pursue a defensive difference-maker in FA (our only other option) … which means this team doesn’t REALLY improve. We basically repeat 2008 and 2009.
3. If Woody goes ……… who is to say that the new coach will want to have the same roster makeup …. which means we just re-upped some expensive contracts over the last 2 off-seasons (Marvin, Bibby, Zaza, Smoove) and some upcoming contract extensions (Horford) that we will have to eat or trade if the new coach decides to blow things up.
If everything goes down like that, we basically become the FL Marlins of the NBA…minus the fire-sale after a World Championship.

http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/2010/04/27/report-mike-woodson-could-leave-hawks-for-sixers/#comment-144245

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2010
2:06 pm

Thanks, Slobberknocker, for the ringing defense.

ATLANTA TEAMS SUCK

April 28th, 2010
2:07 pm