The Hawks’ next coach? Put Dwane Casey on the case

Improved his team’s record each of the past five seasons; just coached his team to the No. 3 in the East; has made the playoffs three years running; has won two playoff series, each in seven games.

If you’re the Chicago Bulls and you’re hiring for a coach, Mike Woodson would surely be at the top of your list. But the Hawks aren’t the Bulls, and they’ve gone as far with him as they can. And let’s not sell the man short: Under Woodson, this team rose from abject misery to win 53 games.

But the postseason just completed surely represented the end of the road for the Woodman. The Hawks haven’t yet said what they’re going to do, but if they weren’t willing to re-up Woodson when his team was winning 53 regular-season games, there seems no chance they’ll do it after his team lost a playoff series by an average of 25.3 points.

From Jamal Crawford, speaking between Games 3 and 4: “It was like an NCAA tournament game — they were the No. 1 seed and we were the 16. Except that they’re the 2 and we’re the 3.”

It’s possible the Hawks would have been swept with Zen Master Phil Jackson on their bench, but they couldn’t  have looked any worse under any coach. This wasn’t a case of an opponent just being better. This was a stark study in what happens when good players stop listening.

Assuming the Hawks change coaches, the next man needs to be one capable of getting and keeping his players’ attention. As Woodson keeps noting, these aren’t the inept Hawks of 2004-2005. At issue now is finding the man capable of taking this team from Round 2 ignominy to Round 3 and beyond.

Avery Johnson’s name arises often, but word in NBA circles is that he’ll get the New Orleans job. Byron Scott is another possibility, but he has had the benefit of having two of the era’s best point guards (Jason Kidd, Chris Paul) in his two coaching stops and got fired from both. And there’s always sentiment to recycle some TV coach — Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Fratello — but with such big names we must ask: If they’re so great, why aren’t they coaching?

The man I’d hire was interviewed for this job when Woodson got it in 2004. (Also interviewed back then: Mike Brown, who now coaches LeBron.) The man I’d hire is Dwane Casey, who’s currently being sought by other teams — he has interviewed with the Hornets — but might have a greater interest in these Hawks.

Casey worked under Rick Sund, who’s now the Hawks’ general manager, for five years with Seattle as Nate McMillan’s chief assistant. He’s currently employed as Rick Carlisle’s assistant with the Dallas Mavericks. Casey got a chance to be a head coach in 2005 with Minnesota, but it wasn’t a real chance. Kevin McHale fired him halfway through his second season. (Casey’s record was 53-69, which was terrific if you note how the T-Wolves have since collapsed.)

Casey isn’t an exotic coach. He’s not going to go all Don Nelson on you. Where he’d be an upgrade is in relationships. The Hawks died in the playoffs because they stopped trusting one another. (When in doubt, shoot a jumper.) The next coach must handle feelings as much as X’s and O’s.

He must convince Joe Johnson — assuming Johnson stays, which I believe he will — to share the ball. He  must convince Josh Smith not to compete with Johnson jump shot for jump shot. He must convince Smith, whose defense in the postseason was terrible, to make the basic rotations and not always play for the film-at-11 block.

Asked Tuesday if the team had stopped paying heed to Woodson in these playoffs, Al Horford said: “I think that’s fair to say to some extent. Some guys had mentally checked out.”

No, that doesn’t say much for those guys: How can you stop caring when you have, as Horford put it, “a chance to do something special”? But it also says they’re not apt to listen to Mike Woodson ever again. I believe Dwane Casey can make them listen. I believe he should be the Hawks’ next coach.

270 comments Add your comment

Jerry West

May 11th, 2010
12:19 pm

Labo

May 11th, 2010
12:19 pm

glenn

May 11th, 2010
12:23 pm

I would rather have Byron Scott . Point guards yes but very thin team . Really got the most out of the Hornets .

Jerry West

May 11th, 2010
12:25 pm

Mark, can we get a bit more on why you think they’d listen to Casey? I mean, “he worked for Sund”, and “he didn’t get a fair shake in Minny” doesn’t tell us a lot about what he brings to the table. I thought the reason he was let go in Minny was that KG didn’t like him/ wouldn’t listen to a young coach.

O'Brien

May 11th, 2010
12:26 pm

Mark,

After last season, you wrote a column on how the Hawks need to keep the team intact. Well, Rick resigned Bibby, Marvin and ZaZa. And we got nothing from them.

It’s cool. I’ve been wrong many a times too.

Moving on, how do you feel about Doc’s assistant (Thibodeau)?

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
12:27 pm

Because Dwane Casey is very good with young players. And the heart of this team is still young.

Spuds McKenzie

May 11th, 2010
12:29 pm

Want guts & grit and someone who knows what it takes to win? Bill Lambier.

TXDawg

May 11th, 2010
12:30 pm

Sounds like a good choice to me.

TXDawg

May 11th, 2010
12:31 pm

Bill Lambier could barely coach women, I don’t see him having the personality to mesh with young talent like the Hawks have.

Bill

May 11th, 2010
12:32 pm

I’ll buy in to that..Hire Casey.

jj

May 11th, 2010
12:32 pm

why did these clowns wait to stop listening to woodson when the playoffs started

TXDawg

May 11th, 2010
12:33 pm

Mark, do you think Stan VanGundy is a better coach than his brother Jeff?

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2010
12:36 pm

Stan Van Gundy has done a great job. But he pushes his guys awfully hard. I’m not sure how much longer the Magic will be listening to him, either.

Marcus

May 11th, 2010
12:39 pm

What decision point is there for management to go with another 1st timer (like Woodson) vs. an experienced (dare I say retread) head coach?

Does it come down to $$$ or expectations?

if its expectations, we may have to go the route of the 2004 DET Pistons, who fired Rick Carlisle after consecutive 50-win seasons to hire veteran coach /professional nomad Larry Brown, who eventually took the same team to the NBA title. Iironically enough, Woody was on Larry’s staff.

HawkKingBibby

May 11th, 2010
12:42 pm

TYRONE CORBIN, the Hawks need to fin the NEXT GREAT coach not hire a retread.

Brad

May 11th, 2010
12:44 pm

Mark, do you think the Hawks would consider hiring any college coaches? Are there even any out there that would be possibilities?

Texas Hawk

May 11th, 2010
12:49 pm

Don’t take this the wrong way Mark Bradley but I am in Texas and I watched a lot of Dallas games and the one they lost ummmm they took Jump shots. Thats why they got beat down by the Spurs so don’t give me that he can coach this team around that, LOL. I would say this though I am not a fully Woody fan BUT I was watching when we won only “8″ games so becareful what you ask for.

Dr. Warren

May 11th, 2010
12:49 pm

Mark—For the life of me, I just don’t get why the Hawks would choose the playoffs–the playoffs–to quit on their coach? Why such horrible timing? Why should it happen now and not mid-season?

O'Brien

May 11th, 2010
12:52 pm

@TXDawg , May 11th, 2010, 12:31 pm

“Bill Lambier could barely coach women, I don’t see him having the personality to mesh with young talent like the Hawks have”.

I thought his WNBA teams won 3 titles.

Mark,

Agree on SVG. Unless a head coach has won a championship, or is a HOF type coach, sooner or later I think his players will tune him out.

Brad

May 11th, 2010
12:53 pm

Mark, do you think the Hawks might consider hiring any college coaches? Are there even any out there that would be possibilities?

No Woody for Me

May 11th, 2010
12:57 pm

Josh Smith would listen to Fratello for maybe 5 minutes and then go cry in a corner. Here are the top requirements for the next coach

#1 requirement – “championship” pedigree so the veterans will listen
#2 requirement – Ability to adapt and game plan within games
#3 requirement – Ability to develop young talent, esp at point guard

Sounds like Byron Scott or Avery Johnson to me.

Section 303

May 11th, 2010
1:06 pm

Mark, I don’t know if I agree with you or not. I do not know that much about Casey, to be honest. You’re doing a good job, though. I like that you came up with a name, and some good reasons why.

Do me a favor…keep talking writing about the Hawks this offseason. Don’t just forget about them when football starts back up.

Rock Preston

May 11th, 2010
1:06 pm

Why does eveyone still call us a young team??? Al, Josh and Marvin are the only young guys. I would take a flier on Tyrone Corbin. He is sitting next to the best coach in the NBA in Jerry Sloan.

Jerry West

May 11th, 2010
1:09 pm

Hornets fans would strongly disagree on Byron Scott and young talent. He barely played Marcus Thornton, who turned into a big time scorer, and didn’t do much with Julian Wright. Collison took off after Byron left as well. Avery would be nice, but he tended to wear on his young PG Devin Harris. He may have mellowed though.

Corbin would be interesting, esp. if he was able to install some semblance of the efficient offense Utah runs.

Big-D

May 11th, 2010
1:11 pm

I think the Celtics and Suns have proven that with a good PG you can compete with the big boys. Atlanta should become the new PG Univ. First go out and get a former Guard as head coach. How about recruiting from someone who worked under Jerry Sloan. Oh what do you know. There is Tyrone Corbin.
Now go out and worked that sign and trade proposed yesterday with the New Orleans Hornets. Send Joe and Marvin over there for Peja, draft picks, and Darren Collins

AG

May 11th, 2010
1:11 pm

Mark, I have asked several times, Bill Laimbeer. Keep the nucleus. We cannot have Josh as they three. We need to find a three, put Marvin and Bibby on the bench – makes us have a strong bench. Start Teague. Find us a journeyman SF – maybe Salmons? As much as I hate to say it resign Joe, and have an offense. Imagine Salmons and Joe on the court at the same time. Bibby coming off the bench hitting treys. Find another one or two shooters to come off the bench.

LAST SECOND THREE (AIR BALL)

May 11th, 2010
1:12 pm

what about Bill Cartwright , he would get their respect , be hard for them to ignore him

AG

May 11th, 2010
1:14 pm

All these assistants names being thrown around are sitting at home, Corbin, etc. I like the idea of having a coach who was a point guard and can get the most out of them. If not Laimbeer, Avery Johnson. Jeff Van Gundy will make us a slow team – also a big center (look what Phoenix did WITHOUT Shaq!) Van Gundy got bounced from Houston so quick and he had McGrady and Yao

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Dr. Dave

May 11th, 2010
1:20 pm

Kenny Smith is smart, articulate, and as a former point guard, knows the game. Though he has never coached, he would do well, much like Nate McMillian.

Art Vandelay

May 11th, 2010
1:23 pm

Why doesn’t Patrick Ewing’s name ever enter the conversation when the next Hawks coach is discussed? He’s been an assistant for several years on some very good teams, and I can’t think of anyone better to work with Horford and Smith in developing a real low-post game. Ewing should get consideration because he’s paid his dues…and we’d also have the added benefit of taking a very good assistant off of Orlando’s bench.

Gilley

May 11th, 2010
1:23 pm

MOST fans are irrational and overreact based on their emotions. We had a good season. 53-wins and advanced to the second round. Jazz get trumped every year after making the playoffs and no one is calling for Jerry Sloan’s head and they shouldn’t……BUT. His players compete, run plays and are not dependent upon one person. That is why Mike Woodson should be relived of his coaching duties. He doesn’t get the best out of his players and his time is up. He has and will deserve a coaching job but just for another team.

I heard people throw Patrick Ewing’s name out there to help with our bigs and no diss to Tyrone Hill, he is a huge upgrade but we do not need a rookie coach. We need a veteran. Brian Hill, Hubie Brown, Byron Scott. Someone who has championship/elite experience as a head coach not an assistant coach.

Dr. Warren

May 11th, 2010
1:27 pm

Hubie Brown is 77 YEARS OLD. As I’ve said on this blog many times this week, how about Kevin Loughery? The guy won everywhere he went, including in Atlanta. And don’t be surprised, by the way, if Dominique Wilkins is interviewed for the job.

FunkyBobbyJ

May 11th, 2010
1:28 pm

I think that you are going to have to have a very strong coach with these guys. As said, they have essentially been playing the same way for a few years. It will take a strong personality and someone who has earned their stripes to get these guys to change. We have to have a point guard that can break down a defense – maybe Teague – who knows Woody only played 7 or 8 guys – I guess that is what you get when a coach is worried about their job. We had a solid bench; it hjust got utilized less and less.

Texas Hawk

May 11th, 2010
1:40 pm

FunkyBobbyJ,
I agree with you that we has a decent bench. I thought them drafting Teague would mean a little bit better play at guard. I think Woody should have played him more through out the year so he could have been ready to contribute in the Playoffs! I really wanted to see Teague start the last game with Bibby coming off the bench after Crawford but Woody decided not to change any of his playoff roster. Now we are fishing with every other sorry playoff loser team!

LAST SECOND THREE (AIR BALL)

May 11th, 2010
1:43 pm

NO to Nique players that had that much talent usually have trouble getting down to the level of most of their players. I am a huge Human Highlight film Fan but don’t believe a rookie head coach is the way to go.

Reid Adair

May 11th, 2010
1:44 pm

I think Dwane Casey would be a great choice. However, I disagree that Joe Johnson should be here in 2010-11.

houstondawg

May 11th, 2010
1:46 pm

Don’t Forget Doug Collins built the Bulls team and got fired before they learned to play together as a team. Phil Jackson was his assistant.
Jeff V Gundy was always missing a few pieces to compete, and in houston he had the T Mac primadonna screwing that team up.

Andy

May 11th, 2010
1:49 pm

Mark

The national media is crushing the Hawks. I was listening to Michael Wilbon on the Tony Kornheiser Show that aired yesterday and he said that the Hawks were the worst franchise in the league and should be contracted. He also said that this was the biggest collapse in playoff history of any sport. He was mainly noting how the Hawks were blown out in every game and this was before last night’s game. He put all of the blame on the franchise and the fans and left Johnson blameless and said that he will leave ATL and go on to have a great career somewhere else. He is certainly not a Hawks fan.

ATLANTA TEAMS SUCK

May 11th, 2010
1:50 pm

a YOUNGER hubie brown would be the perfect coach for the hawks.

Andy

May 11th, 2010
1:50 pm

Mark

The national media is crushing the Hawks. I was listening to Michael Wilbon on the Tony Kornheiser Show that aired yesterday and he said that the Hawks were the worst franchise in the league and should be contracted. He also said that this was the biggest collapse in playoff history of any sport. He was mainly noting how the Hawks were blown out in every game and this was before last night’s game. He put all of the blame on the franchise and the fans and left Johnson blameless and said that he will leave ATL and go on to have a great career somewhere else. He is certainly not a Hawks fan.

ZEKE

May 11th, 2010
1:53 pm

I am available and waiting on the phone call. I can be there from Florida in a flash, and I’m a hall of fame point guard

justbiznus

May 11th, 2010
1:53 pm

PAT REILLY!!!

Kane337

May 11th, 2010
1:54 pm

Jon Koncak as Hawks next coach.

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Andy

May 11th, 2010
1:57 pm

Mark

The national media is crushing the Hawks. I was listening to Michael Wilbon on the Tony Kornheiser Show that aired yesterday and he said that the Hawks were the worst franchise in the league and should be contracted. He also said that this was the biggest collapse in playoff history of any sport. He was mainly noting how the Hawks were blown out in every game and this was before last night’s game. He put all of the blame on the franchise and the fans and left Johnson blameless and said that he will leave ATL and go on to have a great career somewhere else. He is not a Hawks fan.

Luis Valdes

May 11th, 2010
2:01 pm

The most compelling argument thus far is Patrick Ewing.

ryan

May 11th, 2010
2:01 pm

what about Doc Rivers or Avery Johnson

Stotts Era

May 11th, 2010
2:04 pm

patrick ewing is a terrible choice as head coach, probably a good assistant though

jlewis

May 11th, 2010
2:06 pm

I agree that Woodson should go, not because he is a bad coach, he has just been here to long. I am curious about one thing Bradley, who is Joe to share the ball with, besides bringing in Bibby and Jamal Crawford, both points and no defense, what moves have the Spirit Group made to make this team better. Woodson did a hell of a job with what he had, and Joe is the only good player that was willing to come here. This team played hard, and the attendance was poor, ATL is about to get what they deserve, a perennial loser again.