This time a week ago, a guy I know — i.e., me — suggested that the Hawks had chosen Larry Drew as their coach for no compelling reason other than that he was the cheapest option. Now comes this, from Frank Hughes of SI.com, with the fairly damning headline: “Drew hiring all about saving money.”
Sometimes when a national writer takes on one of our clubs, I’ll feel the urge to defend the locals. Not so against this harangue from Mr. Hughes, who writes: “What took place in Atlanta … left little doubt that more than a few of David Stern’s exclusive membership group care less about winning and more about their bottom line — and that usually never leads to good thing.”
I asked Rick Sund last Monday if Drew had been his recommendation to ownership as head coach. He said he didn’t want to broach the sanctity of the process, or words to that effect, but insisted that if he weren’t completely comfortable with Drew as coach he wouldn’t still be general manager. Hughes makes a rather different case:
For the Hawks, cost was a paramount concern, particularly since a second straight season of a trip to the second round did not net enough revenue to offset the team’s financial woes.
If money were not the driving force, [Dallas assistant Dwane] Casey would have been hired. He has NBA head coaching experience, is hard-working, diligent and maintains a solid reputation among his peers.
In fact, several high-ranking sources indicated the Hawks opened contract negotiations with Casey, only to change their minds when they realized they could sign Woodson’s second-in-command for only 60 percent of what a bona fide NBA coach would cost.
I asked co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. last Monday about the perception that the Hawks had settled for the cheapest option. “We hired the best guy available for the job,” Gearon said.
If Hughes’ article is any measure — and I would submit that it is — national opinion is a bit less rosy. And national opinion about the state of the Hawks’ ownership figures to matter come July, when the team makes its pitch to keep Joe Johnson.
This same ownership group admitted last Friday that it is seeking additional investors, which wouldn’t appear a reflection of a rock-solid bottom line. And if a big-ticket free agent doesn’t believe the hometown club has the means or the will to win … well, why come back?