Archive for April, 2011

Paul Hewitt to George Mason: A good move for both parties

That didn't take long: Paul Hewitt is coaching again. (AP photo)

That didn't take long: Paul Hewitt is coaching again. (AP photo)

Yeah, I’m surprised. I thought a man sitting on a $7.1 million buyout would kick back, work in TV for a year or so — and he’d be good on TV — and then consider his next coaching move. You know, do it the way Steve Lavin did it. But no.

Paul Hewitt, recently of Georgia Tech, has taken the George Mason job that came open when Jim Larranaga left for Miami, which had a vacancy because Frank Haith left for Missouri, which needed a coach because Mike Anderson went back to Arkansas, which started all this by firing John Pelphrey about the same time Tech fired Hewitt. Got that?

My immediate thought: As career restarts go, George Mason is about as a good place as you can find. It’s a brand-name mid-major that has proved it can reach the Final Four, and hiring a former ACC man — a man who led Tech to the 2004 NCAA title game — is a nice get for Mason.

That’s correct. This persistent Hewitt critic has just given Mason a …

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Without Kirk Hinrich, the Hawks’ Round 2 chances take a hit

Here's the man the Hawks have to stop: Derrick Rose. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

To the Hawks' chagrin, we might not see this matchup. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

UPDATED TO REFLECT KIRK HINRICH’S STATUS

Here’s where cold reality tends to descend. Two years running, the Hawks fought through Round 1, pronounced themselves full of confidence and vowed to make an even bigger statement in Round 2. Then they got swept.

Now they’re here again, and an even bigger chill has fallen: Kirk Hinrich, the man designated to defuse Chicago’s Derrick Rose, is listed as “doubtful” for the series with a bad hamstring. The only way for the Hawks ever to reach the Eastern Conference finals, a place they’ve never been, might be if the league grants them a bye.

Last spring the Hawks were swept so egregiously from Round 2 they fired Mike Woodson and promoted his assistant. That bit of personnel shuffling paid no dividends during a regular season that saw them slide from 53 victories to 44, but in Round 1 of these playoffs the new head coach found a way to do what his …

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Another blow to the Braves: Derek Lowe arrested for DUI

Derek Lowe's mug shot. (Atlanta City of Corrections)

Derek Lowe's mug shot. (Atlanta Department of Corrections)

The Hawks just won a playoff series. The Falcons moved up to take Julio Jones. And the Braves?

They’re having a week no team wants to have.

If sorting out what to do about pitching coach Roger McDowell wasn’t difficult enough, the Braves awoke this morning to learn that Derek Lowe, who has become their best big-game pitcher and who has long been considered a clubhouse exemplar of how to be a professional, was arrested on charges of DUI.

The team is expected to announce something today regarding McDowell, having spent Thursday trying to gather information. And now they get to read about Lowe being arrested smack in the middle of Buckhead.

And to think: On the field, the Braves are doing well. They finished a difficult West Coast road trip by winning five of six games and have climbed back to .500. They’ve got that going for them, if nothing else.

9:54 a.m. update: The Braves have released this statement:

Obviously we …

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Why, it’s a birdbrain migration: The Hawks fly into Round 2

The series was there for the taking in Game 6. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The series was there to seize in Game 6. The Hawks seized it. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

They’d been the better team through four games, and then they lost Game 5 and folks started talking about how lousy they were. An Orlando Sentinel columnist called them the Birdbrains, which sounded a bit strange: If the Hawks were such plods, why were they still leading?

The same scribe predicted the Magic, having won one game in a row, would outsmart the Hawks and win the series. And maybe if this were “Jeopardy” they would have. But this is basketball, and at last check MIT hasn’t been to the Final Four lately. And Orlando won’t be going to Round 2 of these NBA playoffs.

The Atlanta Birdbrains will.

No, they don’t always appear to know what they’re doing, and there are times when they don’t appear to care. But in this series we saw the tenacity that was missing during the regular season. Yes, they were lucky in that they drew the one decent team they’d proved they could beat, but …

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Live from Game 6: The Hawks try again to close the door

An example of the Hawks' tenacious D in Game 5. (Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel)

An example of the Hawks' tenacious D in Game 5. (Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel)

After Game 4, a really dumb guy — OK, yours truly — told the Hawks’ PR folks: “Nothing surprises me about your team, but I’d be surprised if you lost this series.”

I stand by that statement, at least for the next couple of hours.

I think the Hawks will win tonight. Others don’t. They believe that Game 5 was the truer measure of these teams than the first four games, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to this reporter. (Four games were an aberration, but one game reflects the truth?) But I have been known to be wrong.

I wasn’t shocked by what happened Tuesday. The Hawks aren’t very good when they’re not very interested, and they played in the manner of a team that knew it had three chances to win once.

“It would have been a huge step for us a ballclub,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said, speaking moments ago. “We’d never been in that situation before, at least not since I’ve been here. It was …

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The Falcons are working hard to trade up for A.J. or Julio

Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones: One of them could play here. (AJC file photos)

Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones: Could one play here? (AJC file photos)

It has been rumored that the Falcons are attempting to move into the top five or 10 to take one of the two prime receivers — A.J. Green of Georgia or Julio Jones of Alabama — available in the NFL draft. It was learned late this afternoon that such discussions are serious and ongoing and, 2 1/2 hours before the draft commences, the Falcons remain guardedly optimistic that such a coup might be possible.

It might be that the Falcons wind up with Jones, who figures to be taken among Picks 6-10, as opposed to Green, who shouldn’t last beyond the first five. And any such move would be pricey: It would cost the Falcons this year’s No. 1 pick (the 27th overall) and next year’s No. 1.

The Falcons’ rationale in being so persistent: Roddy White, their No. 1 receiver, turns 30 this fall, and tight end Tony Gonzalez could be entering his final season. At some point in the near future this franchise must …

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Roger McDowell: A good pitching coach is in deep trouble

Roger McDowell's accusers: The Quinns of Fresno, Calif. (AP photo)

McDowell's accusers: The Quinn family of Fresno, Calif., and attorney Gloria Allred. (AP photo)

Roger McDowell, who’s a very good pitching coach, is in deep trouble because he engaged a round of verbal volleying at AT&T Park over the weekend.  Four days later, McDowell has been forced to apologize and the Braves have been moved to offer a statement expressing “concern” and even Bud Selig has weighed in.

At the heart of McDowell’s side of the repartee is, according to a family being advised by the famous attorney Gloria Allred, a volley of anti-gay sentiment. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was just fined $100,000 by the NBA for directing a gay slur at a referee during a game, but McDowell’s alleged outburst doesn’t seem a heat-of-the-moment thing.

For one thing, it apparently  took place before Saturday’s game. For another, it doesn’t appear to have been a one-time salvo. The Quinn family of Fresno, Calif., alleges that McDowell’s side of the dialogue went on for a while and involved …

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For the Falcons, a Round 1 defensive end only makes sense

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. He'd look good here. (AP photo)

Adrian Clayborn of Iowa. Is he explosive enough? (AP photo)

The NFL draft hasn’t yet arrived, and already Thomas Dimitroff has contracted a special strain of fatigue. “I’m sick of saying, ‘Explosive player,’ ” he said.

“Explosive” has become the latest buzzword to hit Flowery Branch.  (”Process” was beaten to death in 2008, and “urgency” and “consistency” were the twin themes of 2009.) Dimitroff is, among other things, a wordsmith, and the general manager hates it when he can’t find a synonym.

Trouble is, there isn’t one to describe what the Falcons lack. Repetition be hanged, they need explosive players.

In other offseasons, they’d have found one by now. That’s the Dimitroff Way: Build through the draft, augment via other means.  In 2008 the Falcons signed Michael Turner as a free agent, and he led the NFC in rushing. In 2009 they traded for Tony Gonzalez, the All-Pro tight end, ahead of the draft. In 2010 they signed Dunta Robinson, thereby alleviating the need to draft a …

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From Peter King: Falcons trying to trade up for A.J. Green

He'd be quite a catch for the Flowery Branch crew. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

He would be quite a catch for the Flowery Branch crew. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Hot off the Web! Peter King of Sports Illustrated has just loosed a Tweet that reads:

We have some action in the Top 10, I’m told. Atlanta, seeking explosive outside threat, trying to get way up for Green/Julio. Unlikely, tho.

Translation: The Atlanta Falcons are endeavoring to trade their way upward in the NFL draft, which begins Thursday, so as to land a receiver comparable to the one they have already in Roddy White. The receivers in question are A.J. Green of Georgia or Julio Jones of Alabama. (”Tho” is a shortening of “though,” which enables the savvy Twitter user to save three precious characters.)

My take, such as it is: The Falcons would be nuts not to try, and if there’s anything the Falcons under Thomas Dimitroff aren’t it’s nuts. Trouble is, the Falcons would need to trade into the top five to have a shot at Green, and that’s a major leap from No. 27, which is their draft position …

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Kennesaw, Tech and Georgia State: Assessing hoops hires

At Kennesaw, Lewis Preston walks into a difficult job. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

At Kennesaw State, Lewis Preston walks into a difficult job. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Here I sit, smack in the midst of what was, at least for six weeks, the Coaching Vacancy Capital of the Basketball World, and now the positions have been filled and darned if I can find cause to criticize any of the three. Have I lost it or what? (Don’t answer all at once.)

Georgia State hired Ron Hunter. Georgia Tech hired Brian Gregory. Last but not in any way least, Kennesaw State hired Lewis Preston, who was introduced at the school Tuesday. I’d give solid B’s to Tech’s and KSU’s new men, and I’d give something better to Georgia State’s. Here’s a look at each case.

Kennesaw State: This was the trickiest of the three hires. The Owls had to first find an athletic director, and they landed an impressive one in Vaughn Williams, who apprenticed at Boston College and UConn. Then Williams, whose official start date isn’t until May, had to identify someone willing to take a job that pays less — …

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