Avery Johnson wouldn’t be my choice to coach the Hawks

Avery Johnson is good on TV and good at motivating people. (As a player, he was known as the Little General.) He’s from New Orleans, and Saints coach Sean Payton has had Johnson address his team. Indeed, when the Saints beat the Falcons in September 2006 in the first post-Katrina game in the Superdome, Johnson accepted the game ball on behalf of the people of New Orleans.

That said … I’m not sure Avery Johnson is the coach for the Hawks.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting that Johnson will be granted the first interview in the Hawks’ coaching search. (As reported in this space yesterday, Dallas assistant Dwane Casey will also be interviewed.) And that’s understandable: Johnson is a big name, and he’s an obvious man to see.

But here’s what sticks with me about Avery Johnson: He presided over two of the greatest flops in NBA history. His Mavericks lost the 2006 finals after leading 2-0 in games and by 13 points with six minutes left in Game 3. The team that undid Dallas, the Miami Heat, consisted of a young Dwyane Wade and a old Shaquille O’Neal and little else.

The next spring Dallas became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in a best-of-seven Round 1 series, falling to a Golden State team that had won 25 fewer regular-season games. The next year the Mavs, the No. 7 seed this time, were eliminated in Round 1 by, of all teams, the New Orleans Hornets. Johnson was fired afterward and hasn’t coached since.

If you’re the Hawks and you’ve just dumped a guy who got you past Round 1 two years running, is a coach known mostly for playoff failure a real upgrade? If the idea is to find a coach capable of taking the Hawks higher, is Avery Johnson the correct response?

I know what you’re saying: “Bradley, how many NBA titles has Casey, the guy you’ve championed, won?” And the answer is none. As a head coach, Casey hasn’t made the playoffs. (Then again, he worked only one full season in Minnesota before getting dumped by Kevin McHale.)

Dwane Casey doesn’t have one-tenth the name recognition as Avery Johnson, and he’s not as dynamic a person. That, I submit, is not a negative. The NBA season is long. The greatest motivation comes not from inspired speeches but in playing for a coach in whom the players believe. I think Casey can be that coach here. I’m not sure about the Little General.

164 comments Add your comment

mike

May 17th, 2010
3:07 pm

my only criteria for a coach:
-motivate players
-movement on offense
-tom thibodeau like defense
-can discipline josh smith and don’t baby him
-specifically tell josh smith he is not allowed on perimeter

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 17th, 2010
3:09 pm

as long as he can get through to these knuckleheads- all i’m for whoever they pick. however, since it’s the ATL Spirit- you know they will not spend the $$ to get a quality coach.

SHO-NUFF

May 17th, 2010
3:09 pm

I’d pick Chip Caray.

Antoine

May 17th, 2010
3:10 pm

t

May 17th, 2010
3:10 pm

Avery Johnson would be great in mentoring Jeff Teague which is one of the most important. This being because the league is a point guard driven league now, and the Hawks only hope at that position is Teague. That is since we all are having to watch Deron Williams and Chris Paul play elsewhere and while we watch Marvin Williams play mediocre every night. Yep, I am still taking shots at Billy Knight.

Antoine

May 17th, 2010
3:11 pm

Reid Adair

May 17th, 2010
3:13 pm

Avery Johnson is not the answer. The two playoff debacles you mentioned, Mark, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Rick Sund needs to get Dwane Casey in here.

F-105 Thunderchief

May 17th, 2010
3:17 pm

His playoff record seems a lot like the guy who was just shown the door.

JSS

May 17th, 2010
3:17 pm

When will you people get over your fixation with Josh Smith and the long range jumper? Go look at the stats, he only took a handful the ENTIRE year! And were is desperation or at the end of the game or halves!

I second the motion, just say “NO” to the “Mini-preacherman!

JSS

May 17th, 2010
3:20 pm

“And those were in desperation” before the grammar cops descend upon my comment… Gracias

Kreate

May 17th, 2010
3:20 pm

Yeah but he has moxy!

SSJ

May 17th, 2010
3:21 pm

Al Attles is only 73 and not coaching, I hear.

Stan Williams

May 17th, 2010
3:21 pm

Mark Price! Point guards make great coaches.

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The Real Hawk

May 17th, 2010
3:26 pm

It’s about experience. If we can get Avery, and I don’t think the Hawks are serious about him, then that’s where we should go. I’m certain the AJC wasn’t your first job and I hope you were better for the experience.

Rock Preston

May 17th, 2010
3:27 pm

You guys want perfection?? You wont get it. We need a capable x’s and O’s guy who commands respect. The wins will come. Just so you know…Avery had Dirk No”weak”ski as his star. I wont hold the collapses he had in Dallas against him considering who his “star” was.

clay

May 17th, 2010
3:29 pm

Mark you make a very valid point. I would still take my chances though. Stan you also make a very good point as well it would be intresting if that were to happen

hawkfan

May 17th, 2010
3:31 pm

Bradley:

I dont undertand why losing to an 8th seed qualifies as the biggest playoff flop ever. For years now, Western Conference seedings are incredibly TIGHT, with only 2-3 games separating most seeds. I admit losing to Golden State was an underachievement, but that speaks more to the strength and parity of the West and less to Johnson’s coaching ability.

As far as losing in the Finals to the Heat, I don’t think that was so unexpected. The Mavs only held home court to go up 2-0. The only major upset was losing game 5 at home, after the Heat had tied it up in Miami. Let’s also not forget that D Wade played out of his mind during the series, and Shaq, although not in his prime, more than held his own.

Bottom line is that Avery commands leadership and respect. As a Popovich asistant, I have to believe he understands X and O’s. More importanly, he is a former PG who led his team (Spurs) to a title. It’s logical to believe he would be able to groom Teague or another young PG to help get this team to the next level.

Stotts Era

May 17th, 2010
3:32 pm

he’s terrible on TV. what are you watchin’ mark?

gtm

May 17th, 2010
3:32 pm

What was it that he specifically did during those playoff collapses that show he is a bad coach? I’m not defending him, I just want to know what he did. I’ve only read that the team lost, but seen nothing about what mistakes he made.

EW

May 17th, 2010
3:34 pm

What’s wrong with Johnson??? It’s not like we’re gonna convince a hall of famer to come to ATL. I think he is a good fit, will demand respect from players, and is a better X’s and O’s guy than Woody. Maybe you think Phil Jackson will want a new project or something MB, but Avery might be about as good as it gets for us.

TruthSeeker

May 17th, 2010
3:34 pm

At least he got the Mavericks to the Finals in 2006. The Hawks have NEVER, not one, single solitary time in the 43 years they’ve been in Atlanta, even made it past the second round. So as bad as the Mavericks collapse in ‘06 might have been, Avery still took his team two rounds further than any coach has ever taken the Hawks. And by the way, he did it in the vastly superior Western Conference.

The ‘07 loss to the Warriors is pretty indefensible, but I’d note that George Karl also lost a series as the top seed to the 8th-seeded Nuggets in 1994 and he’s still regarded as one of the top coaches in the NBA.

Avery’s not perfect, but he’s a proven winner and has the best credentials of any coach on the market.

teamguy

May 17th, 2010
3:35 pm

Stan Williams has the right idea. .and the right guy!

EW

May 17th, 2010
3:36 pm

MB, as hawkfan alluded to, I don’t think that AJ’s teams QUIT like we did…That is what cost Woody his job..I think anyone could live with losing a series as long as your team goes out swinging…we got walked all over and looked like we were waiting to be put out of our misery. UNACCEPTABLE

JSS

May 17th, 2010
3:37 pm

@SSJ
Ever had a original thought in your life? Want some, come get some? I’m not hard to find if you have the huevos!

Art Vandelay

May 17th, 2010
3:37 pm

First of all, I’m not convinced that Avery Johnson is the perfect fit, especially since he’s probably the most expensive candidate available (not that it’s my money, though). But Mark, the Mavs have bowed out of the playoffs early the past two years with Rick Carlisle at the helm too — lost to San Antonio in the first round this year, and lost in five games to Denver in the second round last year. Might have something to to with a roster full of relatively soft players who don’t respond well to adversity — much like these Hawks, come to think of it. Johnson won 60, 67 and 51 games in his three full seasons as Mavs head coach, and at least he did have them in the Finals once. I’d take that.

O'Brien

May 17th, 2010
3:38 pm

Mark,

I am concerned about his playoff performance too. But lets be real, Avery (the coach) was making twice what woodson made.

Do you see the ASG finding the money to hire him (if He is the Guy Sund recommends?).

Ultimately, I don’t think hawks will hire him, because of his playoff record.

EW

May 17th, 2010
3:39 pm

MB I’d say the early exit polls show a majority of dissenters from your opinion on this one.

TruthSeeker

May 17th, 2010
3:40 pm

And oh yeah, 5-time NBA champion Pat Riley also lost to the 8th seeded Knicks in 1999. Is Riley not good enough for this job either?

Jerry West

May 17th, 2010
3:40 pm

I’m still trying to figure out what’s so great about Casey. Does he develop players? If so, who can we say are some of his noted pupils? Is he an X’s and O’s guy? An offensive or defensive specialist (or both)? Why would the players believe in him?

Dan

May 17th, 2010
3:41 pm

“Bill” Laimbeer”

jarvis

May 17th, 2010
3:44 pm

Mark says “no”, so I says “yes”.

I speak truth to power!!!

May 17th, 2010
3:49 pm

MB, you are right about Avery Johnson, he’s too similar to Woodson: both played very well, will demand respect, focus on D, But ultimately it is Avery’s weaknesses that make him an unfavorable match here in Atlanta:
He is not an X/O strategist (Woody showed us how much we need that)
He failed to get handle the Mavs headache in Josh Howard ( Josh Smith)
He never called offensive plays in Dallas ( Del Harris did)
He wasn’t a teacher of the game, BOY, do we need that

I believe an Assistant type coach like Rick Carlise back when he took over in Detroit is necessary for the Hawks, and hopefully in 2 years when we can contend, Atlanta can then hire a Larry Brown type coach for the championship run.

doug scharff

May 17th, 2010
3:49 pm

you want an announcer-former point guard-back up the brinks truck and offer a stake in the franchise to Mark Jackson-I know he has never coached but besides Hubie B. who is retired from coaching he is by far the most insiteful guy out there. The Hawks players would respect and do whatever this guy asks because he exudes legit.

Another GM

May 17th, 2010
3:50 pm

None of the coaches mentioned so far are superior to Woodson. That being sad Woodson lost his team. The Hawks were at the bottom of the list of playoff teams in salary. The Celtics, Magic, and Cavs are much superior to the Hawks in terms of talent. It looks like Josh Smith might be another Tim Thomas.

kill whitey

May 17th, 2010
3:51 pm

What are Randy Whitman and Scottie Hastings up to?

kent

May 17th, 2010
3:52 pm

i’d pick skip Caray

Red Auerbach

May 17th, 2010
3:54 pm

Tom Heinsohn is only 75 and available.

SSJ

May 17th, 2010
3:56 pm

What’s with all the haterism? Geez.

El Bravo

May 17th, 2010
3:57 pm

MB you are totally wrong on this one. Not many coaches win a title the first time around. Avery has demonstrated all of the qualities you want on a coach, spent time under great coaches in San Antonia and in Dallas, is well respected, coaches an up-tempo offense and gritty defense, is a former PG which can only help the development of Teague. Not only that but for a franchise struggling to convince the World that they are willing to spend money on the product Avery fits that bill as well. He is by far my top choice and exactly the kind of coach we need to take us to the next level.

newkid

May 17th, 2010
4:00 pm

If the next step in the Hawks maturation is a No. 1 seed and a loss in the NBA finals, I’ll take that. The proper construct of your rhetorical question Mr. Bradley should be: “If you’re the Hawks and you’ve just dumped a guy who got you past Round 1 two years running, is a coach known for …getting his team to NBA finals… a real upgrade?

John

May 17th, 2010
4:00 pm

Avery Johnson should get the job he is a good coach he won coach of the year he didn’t get the credit he deserve. He was great as coach of the mavs but his best player Dirk didn’t show any heart in the series against Miami in the finals.

El Bravo

May 17th, 2010
4:01 pm

Not to mention that the man won championships as a player and is the fastest coach to 150 victories in the history of the game!!! Of all of the names being thrown out there I would say he is the one trully known quantity; everyone else is an unknown…

MJ ATL 24

May 17th, 2010
4:03 pm

Tyrone Corbin should be the new hawks coach for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that he has been working under Jerry Sloan for a few years now, which means that he has had time to learn his system. Everyone knows that Sloan has one of the top offensive scheme’s in the NBA, which features ball movement, back door action and timely player movement away from the ball. He also has ties to the hawks organization because he was once a player for this franchise. I think he should get serious consideration for the job.

siskel_god

May 17th, 2010
4:10 pm

cricket

May 17th, 2010
4:11 pm

I’d pick Chip Caray.

I second that. Anything to get him out of the booth.

JSS

May 17th, 2010
4:12 pm

@SSJ
Come with “stupidity,” get it… Drop the 9 million user names try being i-n-s-i-g-h-t-f-u-l! “Haterism,” outside of a comment by BugKiller, the dumbest thing ever typed on a AJC blog…

captain Midnight.

May 17th, 2010
4:13 pm

I’d pick Jay Leno. At least we would get a good laugh.

AG

May 17th, 2010
4:14 pm

I cannot understand the fixation on Duane. He is a rookie head coach. The Hawks need an experienced head coach. A proven winner and leader, so in come Byron or Avery. Van Gundy offense sucks. Hey Paul Westphal is still around although he is 70 also. Imagine the endless possibilities. He is the only coach to win a NBA an WNBA championship…. would have won National Championship if Hank would have lived. Okay, still like Laimbeer if you want inexperienced head coach.

Timmy

May 17th, 2010
4:15 pm

Mark,

What exactly has Dallas done since he left (and arguably with a better starting 5)? For that matter, what did they do before he took over? Dallas is who they are because Dirk isn’t tough enough, not because of Avery Johnson.