Fact: The Hawks just hired Larry Drew, the cheapest option available, as their head coach.
Fact: The Thrashers have been without a head coach for 67 days.
Fact: The Atlanta Spirit, which owns both clubs, conceded Friday that it is seeking additional investors while insisting the teams aren’t for sale, which is kind of like saying, “We’re not selling — but we’d love it if you’d make us an offer.”
Conclusion: The Spirit, its protestations notwithstanding, is strapped for cash.
Solution: Have Larry Drew coach both teams.
I know, I know. You’re saying, “It’ll never work.” But you, I contend, are the same sort of stick-in-the-muds who told Ben Franklin not to bother flying his kite in the thunderstorm. Me, I’m Mr. Outside-The-Box. And Mr. Thrift, too! (Think of me as a cross between MacGyver and Clark Howard.) I really feel this is a dollar-stretching no-brainer, and I demonstrate by anticipating your quibbles.
1. Drew doesn’t know anything about hockey. Who cares? He’s supposed to know something about basketball, but Mike Woodson apparently never listened to him. He should be used to being ignored.
2. They’re radically different sports. They’re both played indoors. Close enough.
3. The Hawks and Thrashers often play on the same night. Yes, but only one team can play at Philips Arena at a time, which is all that matters to the Spirit. (The group also owns the building.) Have Drew coach the home games for each club. Philips ticket-holders would welcome the continuity, and just think of the savings! No hotel suite for the head coach, no room-service charges, no cabs to the road arena …
4. Being without a head coach on the road would put both clubs at a competitive disadvantage. Oh, really? The Hawks stink on the road. (Recent score: Magic 114, Hawks 71.) How much worse can they get? And losing every good player they’ve ever had has, I submit, put the Thrashers at a greater loss. My penny-wise credo: No money for a head coach equals more money for the next Ilya Kovalchuk.
5. The NHL would never go for letting a basketball man coach hockey. As far as I can tell, the NHL isn’t aware the Thrashers exist. Otherwise how could Gary Bettman allow Teflon Don Waddell to stay in place as general manager — and sometimes as coach — for more than a decade?
6. Joe Johnson would never re-sign with a team that wasn’t going to have a head coach present at all games. Are you serious? This would be the greatest recruiting pitch the Hawks could make. Think about it: “Joe, we know our new coach has been saying he wants you to share the ball more, but don’t mind him — he’s not even going to be there half the time. You can dribble and shoot to your heart’s content. Sign here.”
7. It would give the Atlanta Spirit a lousy public image. Sorry, but that ship sailed when Steve Belkin and the other owners started suing each other.
8. Atlanta fans will demand better. If the Spirit cared about Atlanta fans, would it have dumped Woodson just to promote his assistant? Would it have tried to sell Drew, who has been here since 2004, as some new voice? I mean, come on.
You see? Every one of your objections, deftly skewered. (Just call me Perry Mason. Which would, I fear, make you Hamilton Burger, who lost more often than the Hawks and Thrashers combined.)
And what I haven’t mentioned is the increased crossover potential for the players. Think of Zach Bogosian shooting for three points, as opposed to shooting from the point. Think of Josh Smith between the pipes, as opposed to above the rim. Best of all, think of Zaza Pachulia given license to wear pads and start fights.
Tell me you wouldn’t buy a ticket to see Zaza flatten that shrimp Chris Pronger. I double-dog dare you.