Here’s all you need to know about the Hawks’ coach search

It didn't end well, but there's still a good team at work here. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It didn't end so well, but there's still a good team here. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Hawks are seeking a coach. This much you know. Here are seven things you might not:

1. There’s no real front-runner. Although Dallas assistant Dwane Casey will be granted a second interview this week, it’s too early to consider him — or anyone — the favorite. Avery Johnson, formerly of the Mavericks, met with the Hawks twice last week and figures to be on the short list along with Casey and perhaps Larry Drew, who was Mike Woodson’s aide-de-camp. And there could be names, some of them big, still to surface.

2. The Hawks are in no hurry. Deliberate by nature, GM Rick Sund is moving slowly on what is obviously a major decision. It might well be two weeks before the Hawks have a coach, and there’s no guarantee they’ll have one by the NBA draft, which is June 24, or even July 1, when free agency begins. The Hawks are less concerned with hiring in haste than in fitting the proper coach to a team that appeared to tune out its last one.

3. The Hawks weren’t scared off by Johnson. He was considered the favorite to become the Hornets’ coach — he’s from New Orleans — until he reportedly asked to be put in charge of personnel as well. He apparently made no such demands of the Hawks. But he’s also considered a leading candidate for the New Jersey Nets’ job, and he might not be willing to wait around for Sund to decide something. And if the Hawks were indeed swept away by A.J., why grant Casey a second interview? Why not just hold the press conference to introduce the Little General?

4. Drew has a chance, but not a great chance. He’s a longer shot than either Casey or Johnson simply because he hasn’t been a head coach. Still, more than a few Hawks’ players have expressed support for him. The paradigm that works to Drew’s benefit is on display in Phoenix: The Suns lost Mike D’Antoni to the Knicks in 2008 and replaced him with the defensive-minded Terry Porter. That jarring change didn’t take, and Porter was fired after 51 games. He was replaced by the journeyman assistant Alvin Gentry, who has the Suns playing for the Western Conference title. (The key difference: Gentry had been a head coach — three times! — before.)

5. Mark Jackson is an intriguing name, but probably no more. It has been speculated that the Hawks have some interest in the ESPN commentator who has never coached. This should be considered the  obligatory think-outside-the-box possibility. Meaning: It has very little chance of happening.

6. Money won’t stop the Hawks from hiring anyone. It has been speculated that Johnson might price himself out of range, but the difference between coaching salaries is nothing like the expanse between players’ wages. If Johnson asks for, say, $3.5 million per season, that would only be an increase of $1.5 million over Woodson’s pay package. The Atlanta Spirit has the reputation of being tight, but such an additional outlay wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for a club that spent $66 million on player salaries.

7. There’s no feeling within the organization that a massive overhaul is required. The Hawks won 53 games and are by no means an aging team. Even if Joe Johnson leaves, the Hawks could still benefit from a sign-and-trade and turn around and pursue another big-name free agent. Even without Johnson, the Hawks would have Al Horford, who made the All-Star team; Josh Smith, who should have made the All-Star team, and Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s best sub. This isn’t a team that has seen its window of opportunity slam shut, and you should know that co-owners Michael Gearons, Sr. and Jr., have never been fond of coaches who yell. That’s why a calmer voice — Casey, say — could well be the ultimate choice.

184 comments Add your comment

Real Talk

May 24th, 2010
3:36 pm

The owners think they have a problem with low fan attendance let them Hire Casey if they want with his calmer voice and see how LOW FAN ATTENDANCE will be for the 2010-2011 season.

Jim

May 24th, 2010
3:42 pm

I like the idea of discipline that Avery would bring. I would still see if Doc is interested before hiring anybody.

jarvis

May 24th, 2010
3:42 pm

What’s John Lucas up to?

The Bee Keeper

May 24th, 2010
3:43 pm

Paul Hewitt doesn’t make much noise

BeFrank

May 24th, 2010
3:43 pm

Thanks Mark. With regards to point number 7, in some ways losing Joe might open up the offense and require us to share the ball more. We might even be able to get a starting caliber player out of a sign and trade deal and then sign another offensive piece to compensate for the loss of Joe’s points. What are your thoughts?

Cedric

May 24th, 2010
3:44 pm

Real Talk,

I’m with you on that one as well if they kept Drew also, but the one who probably would bring a crowd is Byron Scott. That’s not to say I like the coach but he is a name but I think Mark Jackson needs to be interviewed after the commentators job is finished with the playoffs. Jeff Van Gundy also needs to be looked over. What you think

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
3:45 pm

You’re absolutely correct, BeFrank.

jarvis

May 24th, 2010
3:46 pm

World B. Free…now that’s an outside the box candidate.

ToeKnee

May 24th, 2010
3:47 pm

The Gearons have never been fond of coaches who yell?? Isn’t that what we need?

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
3:48 pm

So with this timeline it will probably be one of the leftovers (which might not be a bad thing) as the so called big names will already be hired somewhere else.

Ken

May 24th, 2010
3:49 pm

Tom Thibodeau.

I don’t know what else to say other than his name. The body of work this man has produced as a defensive coach is second to none. The Hawks have a demonstrated ability to score points, it’s their defensive lapses and inability to adapt on D that have killed this team. Why aren’t we hearing Thib’s name mentioned for this vacancy?

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
3:49 pm

Ha. Good one, jarvis.

jarvis

May 24th, 2010
3:50 pm

Lafayette Lever

Craig

May 24th, 2010
3:50 pm

What about Mike Brown? I hear he’s looking for work

BeFrank

May 24th, 2010
3:52 pm

All,

Cleveland fired Mike Brown. IMHO he should be on our interview list because his teams play great defense with ball movement on offense and he has been to a finals.

What say ye?

Michael in Dunwoody

May 24th, 2010
3:52 pm

I’m all for Rick Sund taking his time on this decision, but it seems July 1 (start of free agency) should mark a deadline of sorts to get a new coach. A new coach can affect a free agent’s decision on where to play the following season, and we, as we all know, have a free agent about to decide on where to play next season. Showing franchise stability and commitment by hiring the right coach can and should go a long way in trying to retain Joe Johnson.

And the right coach in this case is Avery Johnson.

Craig

May 24th, 2010
3:53 pm

Avery Johnson? Joe Johnson??? I’m guessing you go by Michael Johnson???

DP

May 24th, 2010
3:54 pm

Mark,

Could a sign and a trade with Golden State for Monta Ellis be a possibility?

BeFrank

May 24th, 2010
3:54 pm

M in Dunwoody I agree that there should be a self-imposed deadline.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
3:54 pm

what about calipari however you spell it if he brings James with him ?
I know its about as likely as world b free but strange things happen . oh yeah not with these owners, but now thats something I can see Mark Cuban doing

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
3:55 pm

I don’t know that Joe Johnson is apt to sign with Golden State, DP.

Craig

May 24th, 2010
3:57 pm

The ad should read as so:
WANTED: A coach that knows how to motivate, run plays, and play defense. Must not be a fan of Continuous Isolation plays, full arenas, or Mike Bibby. Please inquire within

Ain't that the Truth, Ruth

May 24th, 2010
3:59 pm

The Hawks need a motivator, plain and simple. Too bad Chuck Daly’s dead because he’s be the perfect instigator for this group. And Mark Jackson? Pssshhht. Dominique deserves a look before Mark Jackson.

Gourmand

May 24th, 2010
3:59 pm

I prefer calamari to Calipari.

BeFrank

May 24th, 2010
4:00 pm

Here is an excerpt from an article about Mike Brown:

During his tenure Brown was often criticized for his offensive systems. But over the last two years made assistant coaches offensive coordinators and the Cavs had their best offensive year in Brown’s tenure this season. The Cavs were one of the top six offensive teams in the league, averaging 102 points and shooting 48 percent per game.

BeFrank

May 24th, 2010
4:02 pm

and this…

Brown’s regular season record was 272-138, a .663 winning percentage that was the best in team history. Brown also set a team record for playoff wins, finishing 42-29.

Graham Greene

May 24th, 2010
4:03 pm

Next year, Bibby should be the third man off the bench, not a starter.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:03 pm

Yes, but here’s what other teams are apt to see in Mike Brown — a guy who couldn’t win it all with the world’s best player.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:04 pm

Bibby might go to training camp as the No. 1 point guard, Graham Greene — and here we come, ahem, to the heart of the matter — but he won’t be at midseason.

BeFrank

May 24th, 2010
4:05 pm

True Mark but I think Cleveland’s real demise was in wasting time with Shaq and losing Z’s offense with a reduced role.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:07 pm

I agree, BeFrank. Shaq wound up hurting the Cavs.

Dr. Warren

May 24th, 2010
4:08 pm

I’ve been pushing hard for Loughery, but look what old-timer has actually thrown himself back into the ring: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/basketball/nba/05/23/lenny.wilkens/index.html?eref=sircrc
Note: Wilkins is 2 full years older than Loughery.

Graham Greene

May 24th, 2010
4:10 pm

Whoever is the coach, he should be able to focus the power of this roster to achieve glory.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:12 pm

What about Dr. Jack, Dr. Warren?

TONE

May 24th, 2010
4:14 pm

We need to hire isiah thomas as HC sign shaq as backup center and play him about 15 minutes a game resign JJ , Isiah will groom teague to be a superstar and we win the title ,
its as simple as that

F-105 Thunderchief

May 24th, 2010
4:17 pm

If there were to be a geriatric coach, I would bypass Loughery and Wilkens and go with Billy Cunningham.

TROTTINGHOME

May 24th, 2010
4:20 pm

Got to believe it will be Casey up to bat.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:21 pm

Boy, I haven’t heard Billy Cunningham’s name in years.

TONE

May 24th, 2010
4:21 pm

the real jimmy chitwood may be available if nobody else pans out.

F-105 Thunderchief

May 24th, 2010
4:24 pm

One of the underrated great coaches in league history. Last I heard of him he was in the Heat ownership group, but maybe not anymore.

BravesFan79

May 24th, 2010
4:27 pm

“During his tenure Brown was often criticized for his offensive systems. But over the last two years made assistant coaches offensive coordinators and the Cavs had their best offensive year in Brown’s tenure this season. The Cavs were one of the top six offensive teams in the league, averaging 102 points and shooting 48 percent per game.”

Ive been telling everyone for years THAT is exactly what Hewitt needs to do! Hire a top ex head coach, and put him in charge of a fast break type of offense. Keep Hewitt as head recruiter/ defensive coach. If Hewitt does not swallow his pride soon, all his (few remaining) supporters like myself will get tired of his pride getting in the way of being a national champ contender. We had the top frontcourt in the nation, we should of done better than round 2!

Dr. Warren

May 24th, 2010
4:28 pm

Ramsay is 85, MB. Not even Marv Levy coached at that age. And remember about Loughery: 70 is the new 60. Just like forest green is the new black.

Mac

May 24th, 2010
4:30 pm

We need a coach the will command respect and teach our players how to properly play offense and how to think on defense…..we need discipline orientation…up to now we have been winning on share athleticsism…there’s only one answer…Avery Johnson !!!

steve brown

May 24th, 2010
4:31 pm

Joe Johnson is gone (Kovy clone). Common sense would cause anyone to conclude that the Hawks have come close to peaking with this ownership. Horford will get better, Marvin should get better, Josh will only get better in some other city where he isn’t surrounded by family and friends. That is it my friends, still no big man, still no point guard.

leland

May 24th, 2010
4:32 pm

Dear Mr. MB–I was going to suggest that whoever is up there thinking, do it outside the box, but you and somebody else beat me to it. I would like to add that what they need is somebody who can stay focus. That’s all it is. That is all it is–stay focus. Your pal, Leland

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:33 pm

Vengeance will be serve, leland. Always remember that.

NC Braves Fan

May 24th, 2010
4:37 pm

Lenny Wilkins. Ah, the days of wine and 87-83 scores.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:38 pm

Lenny had some good teams, NC Braves Fan, but they weren’t fun to watch. This Hawks team was fun to watch. At least until it got to Orlando.

Nerlman

May 24th, 2010
4:40 pm

Did Dominique Wilkens play for Lenny Wilkins? ;)

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
4:41 pm

Dominique Wilkins played for Lenny Wilkens a little over half a season, Nerlman. Then he got traded to the Clippers for Manning.