An NBA man says: The right coach could fix the Hawks

Joe and Woody: The partnership seems at its end. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Johnson and Woodson: The partnership seems near its end. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

I spoke for 30 minutes Monday with a man who has been an NBA head coach and who knows the game and its personnel as well as anyone. We spoke about the Hawks. He made these points:

• Mike Woodson is a good coach who deserves great credit for lifting the Hawks from 13-69 to 53-29 over the course of five seasons. But it became clear in these playoffs that his players had stopped listening, as players invariably will after hearing the same voice for so long.

• It’s one thing to go down swinging in the playoffs, but no good team should ever be beaten the way the Hawks were by Orlando.

• Even though Joe Johnson pulled another playoff disappearance, he remains one of the toughest players to defend in the league. He’s the focal point of every opposing scouting report.

• Josh Smith is a tremendous talent who has become a very good player, but his relationship with Woodson has become poisoned. Whoever the next coach is — this man believes Woodson and the Hawks will indeed part ways — he must be able to correct Smith’s excesses without seeming to browbeat him.

• Al Horford is the one indispensable man on the Hawks’ roster — a terrific player who’s also a leader. That said, the man noticed that even Horford was guilty of matador defense during the Orlando series, a telltale sign that the team had stopped responding to its coach.

• Mike Bibby has little left and could well become a distraction if/when he loses his starting job. The Hawks probably need to move him.

• Marvin Williams has been a huge disappointment.

• Woodson’s basic precepts — Iso-Joe on offense, switching every screen on defense — can work well in the regulation season, where opponents essentially have to show up and play, but they don’t work in the playoffs because teams have a chance to prepare at length. Both Milwaukee’s Scott Skiles and Orlando’s Stan Van Gundy outflanked the Hawks.

• Jamal Crawford was the reason the Hawks went from 47 wins last season to 53 this.

• Assuming it comes open, the Hawks’ coaching job will be seen as a plum. Even if Johnson leaves, this won’t be a team starting over. Horford, Smith and Crawford are major talents, and there’s no telling what Johnson could fetch in a sign-and-trade. The right coaching hire could elevate this team immediately.

170 comments Add your comment

the dream

May 11th, 2010
2:58 am

First again from Seattle!

#21=Top50,1stBallot

May 11th, 2010
3:02 am

No start over; just adjustments needed. Obviously Woody is out. Joe has a good chance of being gone because I think anyone who saw this whole thing play out, found he is not a max scorer as a lead dog (though if someone wants to Rashard Lewis him, go right ahead). Proud of the season, and the national tv games, just not the way it ended. Still a fan, still going to

RISE UP!

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
3:02 am

Kudos again, the dream. That time difference makes a difference, huh?

merbertmoover

May 11th, 2010
3:02 am

oh dang! so close!

the dream

May 11th, 2010
3:03 am

Bibby indeed does look spent….what value in trade would he bring? He’s pretty far from an expiring contract and would be an expensive bench player.

merbertmoover

May 11th, 2010
3:03 am

cmon MB, can you give merbert a kudos too? I came so close!

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
3:04 am

Kudos to you, merbert. Kudos to everybody who’s still awake.

merbertmoover

May 11th, 2010
3:06 am

thanks! merbert’s in hawaii time….only 9:00pm out here on the volcano….been havin to watch my hawks suck it up in the early afternoons when i should be workin and surfin!

the dreamer

May 11th, 2010
3:06 am

YEAH, new coach! hawks need to start flying!
who needs JJ!?
get childresss!!!!

Halsey

May 11th, 2010
3:08 am

No coach can fix the Hawks need for more length on the front line. How many NBA Champs can you name without an All-Star calibre 7footer on the front line? Exactly.

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
3:08 am

That’s the thing, the dream: Not many teams would want Mike Bibby. His contract’s not bad, however. It decreases in value next season.

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
3:09 am

Boston Celtics, 2008, Halsey. There’s one.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Jake Walker. Jake Walker said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: An NBA man says: The right coach could fix the Hawks http://bit.ly/cDkiiO [...]

merbertmoover

May 11th, 2010
3:17 am

here’s another problem merbert sees….coach woodson looks like a basketball…seriously, if you took a marker and drew lines on that bald dome of his he’d look just like a dang bball, you know what im sayin? so when my hawks all be in that huddle, theyre thinkin “dang, what’s that basketball doin talkin to me? am i trippin? i cant concentrate…” you know what im saying guys? cmon….hawks fan for life, next season gonna be crazy once we get childress back and make us some big moves….go hawks! cawwwwwwwwwww

the dream

May 11th, 2010
3:18 am

It certainly does Mark….the fact that I work at night helps as well.

And by the way, you certainly are quite the night owl yourself seeing as it’s 3 AM in Atlanta. Are you awake early or a late starter?

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
3:20 am

Both, the dream. Depending on the day.

Halsey

May 11th, 2010
3:24 am

The 2008 Celtics had Garnett, Mark.

Hawks Fan in Laker Land

May 11th, 2010
3:25 am

Hey, Mark – thanks for the scoop tonight and throughout the season. I’ve been scouring blogs and articles for the past five hours, trying to make sense of this disaster and step back from the ledge.

Did NBA Man have any thoughts about Teague? After watching Rondo light up the Cavs — and recalling what a steep learning curve he had in his first few seasons — is there any chance that he can become that kind of facilitator/slasher? Or should we be looking elsewhere, maybe for someone with an edgy-perimeter-defender streak?

- HFILL

Halsey

May 11th, 2010
3:54 am

Fans and local media should keep beating this drum, because it’s true: Almost every NBA Champion has a Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Mehmet Okur/Rasheed Wallace, etc. Many NBA Champs have 2 All Star 7 footers. The only exception that I can remember are Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

tony

May 11th, 2010
4:20 am

I know most fans probably don’t read into the body language thing like I do because they are so focus on the game itself but I saw the problem emerging in Nov. Mike Woodson, JJ and JS never accepted Jamal Crawford as a player on that team.

Everyone should know by now that Mike Woodson is a defensive minded coach, JJ left Phoenix because he wants to become the man and JS wants to be an allround(scorer/defender) superstar.

Well, actually, Jamal Crawford kind of changed or you might say enterfered with their plans. You see, Jamal is, you might say, is a offensive scoring machine. This guy can jack up 50 points on you on any given night. From the get go Woodson, JJ and JS said in their little minds, that ain’t happening. There were some many details in their behavior that proves my point about them.

Rick Sund brought Jamal to Atlanta so he could help the team from an offensive standpoint because the hawks had trouble scoring points down the stretch. Unfortunately, Mike Woodson never utilize Jamal as a scoring threat but instead used him pretty much like the other players. BIG MISATKE!

To me, I know for a fact that a coaching change need to be made. When a GM and coach have different veiws on matters, problems are going to arrive. Rick Sund has to go out and find a coach who pretty much have the same ideals that he have in order for the organization to have success in the future. Personally, I hope that coach is Avery Johnson.

TreeRollins

May 11th, 2010
5:03 am

I feel bad for the guys on the team. They worked so hard for so long, only to get a beat down like that whole series. The knee jerk response, at this point, is to say, they didn’t play hard because of Woodson, or they didn’t do this because of Woodson. I watched most of the games. They didn’t run very many Iso Joes. They got a lot of open shots, not bad ones either; layups, 10-15 foot jumpers, put backs. They just missed everything they threw up. My feeling was the whole team just psychologically melted down. It’s not fair to put that on Woodson. It could be youth or something going on in the locker room or ambiguous leadership. Maybe this beat down will toughen them the hell up for next season. If they have the opportunity to get a coach with a proven track record, that would be great, but really, how many Phil Jacksons or stan van gundy’s are there? It’s unreasonable to get rid of a guy whose team accomplished so much this year. What they need is a hard nosed big man who brings it every night. Send Marvin back whence he came.

tony

May 11th, 2010
5:34 am

I saw the problems with this team emerging back in Nov. Mike Woodson, JJ and JS never accepted Jamal Crawford as a teammate. Remember, Woodson is a defensive minded coach, JJ left Phoenix because he wants to be the MAN and JS want to be a scorer. Well, Jamal Crawford kind of changed their plans because Jamal is a scoring machine. They know that Jamal can jack up 50 points on any given night. Well, I don’t think they approved of Jamal scoring that many points. It shouldn’t matter how many points Jamal scores just as long as they win the game. Thats all that should matter.

Rick Sund brought Jamal to Atlanta because the hawks had trouble scoring points especially in games down the stretch. I believe Sund was expecting Woodson to utilize Jamal from an offensive standpoint because he could score in so many different ways. I don’t think Sund’s plans for Jamal materialize because Woodson wanted to use Jamal from an defensive stand point and not use him as a offensive weapon because that would takeaway from what JJ and JS wants to on the court. GIVE ME BREAK!

If this is true then a coaching change is imminent. GMs and a coaches have to share the same views in order to have success in the business world. If Sund does plan to change coaches I hope Avery Johnson is his man.

Manny

May 11th, 2010
6:00 am

Woodson is gone. He’s a good coach, but this has been atrocious. There has to be some changes made, but we have very little wiggle room in personnel; so that leaves us with a change at coach.

I personally would like to see Marvin and Bibby moved, but we’re in deep with Bibby and Marvin. Their trade value isn’t as much as what they’re pulling in, so it will be difficult. And we have very little cap space to work with- even though our salaries are low. Weird deal, I know.

So you gotta work with what you got or blow the team up. But if you mess with the Smith, Horford, Crawford tandem, you basically will have to keep Woodson because you’re not going to attract other big-time coaches to the job. So you only have Marvin, Bibby, and JJ to play with as carrots to dangle in a trade (with JJ in a sign and trade.)

These are hard choices.

Samuel

May 11th, 2010
6:13 am

If you get rid of Bibby, Williams, and Joe Johnson. Bring in a coach who can evaluate talent, will be on the right track. Hence you got to make changes, if you want to get to the next level.

Jacket13

May 11th, 2010
6:33 am

I am glad the season is over! This team is a disaster! The coach is gone! Joe Johnson is gone! Mike Bibby is gone! I hope Josh Smith is gone! Clear the entire bench, they are sorry and useless! There will be multiple job openings in ATlanta to fill this roster. If the Hawks are smark, they wont pay Joe 16 to 18 million dollars a year. I say get Rudy Gay, and Chris Bosh and get rid of Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams , Bibby, Mario West, all of the bench man this team SUCKS!

Marcus

May 11th, 2010
6:38 am

Woodson is gone for 3 reasons, and not necessarily for losing to ORL

1. *How* we lost to ORL and similarly, how we lost to CLE in the Eastern Con. Semis last year – we got whipped soundly. Not a good feeling and definitely unexpected, given our health. Utah and SA got swept as well, but more fight and leadership was shown in those series. We were overmatched and underwhelming in our performance.
2. Failure all season long to address our glaring issues – lack of offense/4Q defensive meltdowns, iso dependency. These things have been issues that have, on some occasions, been covered up with sheer talent but also, in a perfect world, kept us from actually running w/CLE for best record in the league (considering all the lesser teams who have garnered upset W’s against us)…. which leads to …
3. The players, for some reason, don’t respond to Woodsons’ message anymore. Point nos. 1-2 are symptoms of No. 3, the most critical one.

DonH.

May 11th, 2010
6:39 am

Mark…did that “NBA Man” you spoke to offer up any names of men he thought would be that “right coach” the Hawks need? Or do YOU have some ideas? Or any readers… cuz so far I don’t see any suggestions in any comments. It’s easy to criticize but who are the coach solutions they need to get the team to respond…I got none either!

Reggie

May 11th, 2010
6:45 am

Jacket13,

Do you understand how salary cap works?

Getaway

May 11th, 2010
6:56 am

After the schooling Scott Styles gave with no talent imagine what he could do with this line-up.
Jus’ kiddin’, but not really.

doc

May 11th, 2010
6:57 am

mark, it seems you could have been talking to any of one of the several members of either of the hawks blogs for the last three years. many of those have long been a theme there. sadly if you listen no one has ever said that woody has done a great job with his team. i heard hubie talking about this team in the winter of 2008 when they first made the playoffs. it sounded like there were very good pieces that had not been given the tools to succeed.

these comments you have lited are not new at all. problem is and the one question i want answered is i want to know is if the ASG at the level to see this through or have they got the emperor has no colthes syndrome. have surrounded themselves with people that will only be sycophant? that organization continues to be arrogant and have not shown themselves capable of making the next step up the ladder.

mark, what did your nba person say about ASG? that is the most fundamental element to see this team go forward. it has been the weak link more so than woody or bk all along. that is the true key to this team improving and what is said about them on the street is no one wants to deal with this nine headed monster when it comes to player agents bringing players into atlanta.

Lou Hudson's ghost

May 11th, 2010
7:03 am

Okay… so fire Woodson… and bring in who?

nes

May 11th, 2010
7:04 am

Here’s my take on the Hawks, Woodson must go after two straight sweeps in second round of playoffs and not playing the bench players and developing them during the regular season especially Teague who has shown signs of being a very good and maybe a great scoring and assist making point guard, but who knows with so little playing time given him. Bibby looked finished as a player during the second half of the regular season and very bad in the Orlando series, he couldn’t run or shoot–yet Woodson starts him every game. Marvin at best is a reserve player and not a starter due to the fact a small forward is supposed to be a scorer–he is not! i say get a fundamental sound coach who fits in with younger players and not afraid to use the bench reserves in bigger roles like Morris and Collins and see if they can develop, Woodson wasted this year by not giving them quality minutes in games. The Hawks must get the RIGHT COACH or it is not going to play out right for the team or fans!

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 11th, 2010
7:05 am

so sad and pathetic. here’s a long shot- anyone think the players sabotaged woody into getting fired (which i’m sure he’s on his way out)?? I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that these overpaid sissies just quit on their team and coach.

northcyde

May 11th, 2010
7:12 am

1999 – The #4 seeded Hawks stagnate in the playoffs, getting swept by the #8 seeded Knicks in the 2nd round. ( that Knick team went on to win the Eastern Conf Finals, but lost to the Spurs in the Finals ). They decide to get rid of Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith partially due to their poor playoff performances.

Smitty averaged 17 ppg in the playoffs, but shot 35% FG.

He goes 6 – 17 FG, 2 – 16 FG. 7 – 21 FG,and 5 – 20 FG in the New York series. He shot 20 – 74 or 27% FG . . . ( sound familiar? )

Mookie averaged 12 pts and a whopping 4 assists, while shooting only 33% FG.

Mookie had shooting games of 6 – 16 FG, 7 – 20 FG, 5 – 15 FG, and 3 – 15 FG. For the series, he shot 21 – 66 FG or 32% . . . ( sound familiar also? )

Atlanta, deciding that Mookie and Smitty had taken us as far as we could go, trade the duo. Smitty goes to Portland. Mookie goes to Golden St.

In turn, the Hawks go out and bring in a young athletic playerr in Isaiah ( J.R. ) Rider. They also bring in Jim Jackson and Bimbo Coles, along with 1st round draft pick Jason Terry. They will be added to compliment the frontcort “core” of Mutumbo, Alan Henderson, and Laphonzo Ellis.

1999 team went 31 – 19 with a .620 winning percentage

2000 team went 28 – 54 with a .342 winning percentage

*****************

The Hawks had a good season that year, but failed big time in the playoffs. Instead of tweaking the roster and keeping the veteran guards for a little longer, they decide to get rid of the 2 cornerstones of the team, who set the pace offensively and defensively on the perimeter.

Rider and Jackson weren’t all bad. They were talented offensive players, although a bit streaky. Defensively though, they were HORRIBLE. The Hawks changed from a defensive oriented team, to a team that couldn’t play a lick of defense. Hawks went from the 2nd rated defense in the league . . . to 25th.

JJ is so much a part of the framework of the team, that if we don’t bring in the right guy ( or group of guys ), this thing could turn south in a hurry without him . . like it did in 2000 for us.

While people want the team to revolve around Smoove and Horford, the fact is that they NEED a capable PG to run the show, so that he can get them easier shots, instead of them trying to create their own offense ( which they aren’t real good at right now ).

The fact is that it’s not going to be Smoove and Horford that the team revolves around. It’s going to be Jamal Crawford. Because as of right now, he’s the only guy who can create his own shot. And he will take all of the shots that JJ took . . . out of necessity. Then the question will be . . . who will assume Jamal’s current spot? Or better yet, can Horford or Smoove be efficient in an increased offensive role?

Gotta get a PG . . a good PG that can make Smoove and Horford better than what they are right now. And a PG who can defend on the perimeter. If not, this defense could be even worse next year.

northcyde

May 11th, 2010
7:16 am

nes . . . he’s also shown signs of being a bust of a PG who can’t shoot and has problem with his off the ball defense. People talk about Teague like he’s the 2nd coming of Rajon Rondo. Rondo was VERY GOOD coming out of Kentucky as a defensive PG who could run the show. Teague was a scoring PG at Wake Forest that was nowhere near the caliber of his predecessor . . . Chris Paul.

There are MAJOR QUESTION MARKS about Teague. I hope he proves me wrong, but that dude isn’t nearly as good as people make him out to be.

Hawk Str8Talk

May 11th, 2010
7:18 am

I’m not trying to throw Woodson under the bus. he’s a nice guy, but I’m sorry – he’s rolled the ball out on the court for 6 years. The team was together for most of those years and invariably got better, but I still haven’t seen what tangible thing he does that makes him a good coach. The stuff that he’s installed isn’t good. The offense is simple (let players let their skills get points and when they don’t – no plan B) and the defense has been average since Woodson got here. So, I still have major problems with the fact that people think he’s good. The we won more each year argument can’t be your only argument to convince me of this. I say all this to say – hard to trust the NBA man when he says – Mike’s a good coach.

Willy

May 11th, 2010
7:23 am

The Hawks just need an enema, no need for anything drastic. The last time we did that we traded away guys like Steve Smith for nothing and eventually ended up with a 13 win season.

F-105 Thunderchief

May 11th, 2010
7:26 am

A better coach could do more with this roster. See, Marvin Williams, as it turned out, is just a guy. But, did you notice how much more Orlando got from its JAGs than Atlanta. Most of Atlanta’s JAGs never see the floor at all. Who are the best head coach possibilities out there?

gtdave

May 11th, 2010
7:34 am

Ok, Mark. Who is this mystery coach you speak of?

gtdave

May 11th, 2010
7:36 am

Enter your comments here

The Great Carnack

May 11th, 2010
7:43 am

I think it was Billy Cunningham.

BravesFan79

May 11th, 2010
7:45 am

Bring in Jeff Van Gundy!! And let Johnson go if we can bring in TMac or Wade. We also need a true backup center like illgauskus.

O'Brien

May 11th, 2010
7:46 am

Mark Bradley,

Didn’t you write an article sometime ago that suggested the ASG should have given Woodson an extension? And now we’re talking about players tuning him out? My my, how times have changed.

Also, although Bibby’s salary goes down to $5.6 mil next season, it goes back up to $6.2 mil the next year. So when you see Rick Sund, be sure to give him our thanks for giving Bibby a 3 year deal, when nobody else was offering him 3 years.

I sure hope Marvin turns it around next year, because if not, I dont know what BK and RIck Sund see in him.

Kane337

May 11th, 2010
7:48 am

So who is the “right” coach?

DP

May 11th, 2010
8:04 am

I have said most of the same things as the anonymous NBA coach in recent days, as have others on the AJC blogs. The path forward is obvious. Step 1, thank Woodson for the improvement in the Hawks during his tenure but announce that he will not be rehired. Step 2, hire a new coach who preaches defense and ball movement on offense, who can develop young talent (i.e. will give Jeff Teague a chance to prove whether or not he can play) who can hopefully get the best out of Josh Smith and see if Marvin Williams can be salvaged. Step 3, explore all reasonable sign and trade options for Joe Johnson, with top priority being a point guard (Tony Parker, the rights to Ricky Rubio, etc.). Johnson is not a max salary player and paying him will put a ceiling on the Hawks for the next 4-5 years. Jamal Crawford can replace Johnson at the 2. Step 4, dump Mike Bibby if there is any market at all for him. He’s no longer a point guard and can’t guard anybody. Step 5, find some reasonably priced high effort guys who shoot and defend to replace the current end of the bench guys. See the reasonably priced bench players for teams like Orlando, Phoenix and Utah for examples (it helps that all of those teams have great coaches who will actually use their benches). Step 6, don’t sell the first round draft pick. If you can’t get a good point guard in a trade, keep drafting them until you get lucky. Rajan Rondo and Tony Parker were both drafted in the 20’s.

It’s entirely possible that with these actions the Hawks could go backwards to a 45 win team next year, but who cares? This team got the #3 seed in the East and took the worst 4 game playoff beating in NBA history.

yeahboy

May 11th, 2010
8:06 am

trade Marvin Williams!!!
Thabeet for Tilliams..
play Al at 4, Smith at 3..

Peter

May 11th, 2010
8:09 am

Mark, it sounds like you were talking with Hubie Brown……… All stuff he has said on TV in the past. The Hawks do need leadership, unfortunately JJ is not a leader, or a passer of the ball……if he was Pheonix would have kept him.

Yes JJ is a talent, hard to guard, but his mindset is wrong on offense.

His desire to burn the clock while dribbling the ball does nothing for the offense. All the rest of the guys know they won’t get a touch, and stand around.

We saw this the entire series, and then after not being part of the offense, they get frustrated, and don’t react well on defense.

Old Hawk's Fan

May 11th, 2010
8:12 am

I bet the coach who said that is a former hawks coach he lives in ATL?

Peter

May 11th, 2010
8:13 am

Hey Mark…….as I said before we need to get bigger…..we need a towering NBA Center….. someone said Thabeet……..maybe Memphis won’t give him up, but there has to be another Big, that can guard the likes of Howard, a David Lee, or a legit center.

Dap01

May 11th, 2010
8:14 am

The Hawks are not that far away. They are horrible now but with 3 things they could be very good.

1. A decent coach with an actual offensive plan and coaching abilities
2. A big defensive center
3. A veteran small forward who can shoot