Mike Woodson out: The Hawks are no longer playing not to lose

Jeff Schultz sums Mike Woodson's firing expiring contract well.

Firings shouldn’t be celebrated. But the message that a firing sends can be.

Mike Woodson is out as Hawks head coach. Don’t celebrate a man’s unemployment. But celebrate why.

Rightly or wrongly, I will admit to celebrating. The why of it, the how of it, the who could be next of it, the change in scheme part of it, most everything  but the fact that Mike Woodson will have to uproot his family. Everything else is a positive. There is just a lot to be excited about.

I know no guarantee exists that Woody's replacement will be better. This could be a Maurice Cheeks for Eddie Jordan situation. The new offense might not jell, we may find out how bad Jamal Crawford really is on defense, and some real discipline might turn Josh Smith into a useless disgruntle on the bench. These are all unkowns that someone can point to as they stand strongly against the very impressive known fact that Mike Woodson guided the Hawks to a better record every year he coached.

It is certainly a strong argument against change, especially when you consider 90% of fans hate parts of their coach. If NBA coaches were fired because "this thing he does annoys me and sucks," there would be turnover at about 28 teams every year. One cannot simply say change coaches because they want change because almost every team wants change by the end of 82 games. Coaches are scapegoats. It is clear, and I am guilty of it.

But there is one other known fact. Mike Woodson never tried to alter the game. He provided no advantage when he was the underdog. He never out coached his opponent. I can only think of a handful of times when Woody actually made a move that costs the Hawks a game. (One of the few examples was the Jason Collins sub so Al Horford could play some against Gortat). No, Woody rarely made coaching blunders because he made no coaching moves. It was the same thing every game. The same plays and the same sub patterns, the same post game quotes and the same defense, the same first two offensive plays to start the game and the same non reaction to bad fourth quarter shots down the stretch.

It was the same. Always and forever. All the way down to that patented Mike Woodson stare, and what that same did was provide superior athleticism and a familiarity with a system to win more games season after seasons as skill caught up talent, but it never came close to maximizing anything. You just cannot get the most out of a team when you play not to mess things up.

The wins came, but what never came was an identity. Players got better, but they were never pushed into roles where new skills could have some accountability. And because of all this, the Hawks were a team that was good but not one that was feared. In the NBA, teams fear the unknown wrinkle and the known identity that cannot be stopped. Mike Woodson was never able to produce either. He was a man of consistency, a consistency that should be commended and thanked. But six years in it was clear that consistency was based on a fear to fail and not a drive to win, and in the end, that will only produce mediocrity. And I for one celebrate the Hawks for choosing the unknown ahead over the consistency of being average.

Go Hawks!

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