Two seasons ago, the Hawks underachieved in the regular season and surprisingly lost in a game seven in the playoffs. Tough to call a loss an over achievement since it was really more surprising based on the regular season performance than it was based on the talent the Hawks had. So we can simply call that playoff series a regular, good ol' fashion achievement. It was pleasant but hardly a resume builder.
Last year, the Hawks overachieved in the regular season. I did not make any specific predictions but 47 wins was close to the best case I laid out for the Hawks at the start of the season (And my best case involved Speedy Claxton donating his salary to a homeless shelter to inspire an eight game win streak so it was pretty out to reach. Even then, I only had them winning 51.). With the injuries piled up, the Hawks more or less did what was expected of them with a first round win and second round sweep.
If Mike Woodson was not going to be fired two seasons ago, he was certainly going to be brought back after last year. I cannot even argue that. Well, I could. I mean I want to. But I realize it is more bias talking than actual fact.
Now, with Woody entering the final year of his contract, it is time to set some parameters. You can only hate so long before you become a hater, and you can only defend so long before you become a homer. I fancy myself as both so clearly I don't make too many predictions.
But enough is enough. It is time to define success for Mike Woodson. A lot of the teams below the Hawks have gotten better. The teams above Atlanta have remained elite, with the only possibility of winning less because they were so incredibly good last year. So what is a successful season for the team? Not what do you expect to happen? What do you think are reasonable but challenging expectations for a team of this talent and experience?
I do not think Mike Woodson needs to overachieve to keep his job. He needs to simply not underachieve. Coaches are not really brought in to overachieve. This is not college. The NBA already has max talent. You just have to make sure they use it. You simply need to achieve and that is done by putting players in position to do so and keeping them there through effective subbing, having players buy into a philosophy on both ends of the floor, and keeping them focused for as many of the 82 games as possible. No one overachieves to win an NBA title.
So how far do I think the talent on this team can reach? I will say retaining of the fourth seed and the ability to decisively beat an inferior team in the first round and remain competitive in the second. That is my definition of reasonable success. With that, my bar has been set. Which brings me to the difficult proclamation that if Mike Woodson reaches it, I may complain about specifics, but I will support his return to the bench in 2010.
I will put a poll up. But if you plan on defending or ridiculing the coach in comments, fanposts, and shots, lay down your definition of success in the comments. No more hiding. It is time to out the haters and the homers. It is time to define success for the 2009-2010 Atlanta Hawks.