Hawks general manager Rick Sund is so old school as an NBA general manager that he rarely travels with his team. He wants to scare players and coaches into thinking that something is up when he does. In fact, Sund said on Monday, “I’m Jerry West. I’m Wayne Embry. I’m that era in the sense that we all kind of hung together and shared philosophies and thoughts.”
This is splendid news for the Harry The Hawk Nation.
So is this: The more you listen to Sund in his first year with the Hawks, the more you hear Thomas Dimitroff, who spent last NFL season as a first-year general manager of the Falcons. You also hear Mike Smith, who was in his first year as an NFL head coach with the Falcons.
Remember? Dimitroff and Smith rarely finished a breath without saying “process’” to describe their moves. In the end, the Falcons flourished. They won 11 times compared to just four the previous season, and they reached the playoffs.
So you know where I’m going. With Sund talking “process” after he brought his 30 years of NBA management experience to town, the Hawks flew from 37 victories after the 2007-2008 regular season to 46 and counting. More important, Sund has it right regarding what will be the youngest team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We’re not there yet,” said Sund of a Hawks bunch that, among other things, is road kill away from Philips Arena.
According to Sund, the elite win 20 or more road games each season, so the Hawks clearly aren’t elite. After Tuesday night’s home game against Miami, they will close their regular season on Wednesday night in Memphis searching for their 17th road victory. That means they are fortunate to open the first round of the playoffs against Miami with home-court advantage.
Which means, what, especially when it comes to the expectations of an old-school guy for his new-school bunch?
“If we win the first round, we’re satisfied with that, but it doesn’t mean that if we lose the first round that, well, it’s a total disappointment,” said Sund, who helped build consistent playoff teams in Milwaukee and Dallas before mixed success during his seven seasons in Seattle.
The Hawks are more like the Mavericks during Sund’s stay in Dallas from 1979 through 1995. During one stretch, the Mavericks improved their record each year for eight straight seasons. The Hawks have done so for five straight seasons.
Added Sund, “Again, if we’re really and truly honest about it, we’re not there yet, but if we do win, who says we can’t get into a Cinderella role like we did last season with Boston (by taking the eventual world champion Celtics to a seventh game)? Or like the New York Giants did in football a couple of years ago?”
It’s unlikely these Hawks are those Giants, and Sund knows it. Being that old-school guy, he just wants to see effort and improvement — with as many victories as possible, of course.