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.