...and the Hawks search for a coach comes to a startlingly anti-climactic halt.
The longest shot in the Atlanta Hawks coaching race came in first Friday night, as the AJC's Michael Cunningham broke the news that the team had indeed tapped Larry Drew as their next head coach. Yahoo Sports! Marc Spears reports that it's a three year deal.
It doesn't register as an exciting hire. Even as surprising as it may have been when Mike Woodson was not re-signed almost exactly a month ago to see Drew hired as his replacement, it doesn't capture the imagination at all.
If anything, folks might wonder why the Hawks went through all the fuss.
Drew doesn't carry any head coaching experience with him and there has to be the question of just how much more different Drew can be than his former boss, Woodson?
The first thing Drew has to answer is just that----how will things be different. How can hiring him be the difference for a club that won (53) regular season games and a first round series, but flamed out again in the second round, against stiffer competition?
The Hawks faced problems such as offensive stagnation, lack of effort, blowing games late, uneven efforts. How can Drew be an agent of change in that area when he was on the staff the entire time? Will he be able to even out the burden of accountability (a significant issue in the locker room last season) after being a confidante of the players as the main assistant?
The Drew hire is so low on the excite-o-meter, that you can bet it won't be long until we hear that this hire (and the next season at large) will be a season of transition while the Hawks wait to get their hands on former Hawk PG and current Celtic head coach Doc Rivers.
You have to ask if this was a hire of convenience, given that the Hawks draft workouts start Monday, and there are still plenty of questions to be answered that may have prevented candidates like Dwane Casey and Mark Jackson to sign on now. Question such as the free agent status of Joe Johnson, who might be a key to any coach interested in taking the Hawks job. Should the Hawks be deciding to not bring Joe back, it might deter someone who is interested in continuing what the Hawks have had building and not be interested in a step back. Drew was likely not bound by such questions, already understanding the team (and ownership for that matter) very well and more than realizing there may not be many other chances for him to be a head coach in the NBA.
Last week, a report stated that the Hawks were internally discussing Drew as their "Alvin Gentry", the Suns head coach who took over a floundering Phoenix team and got them back on track with the same personnel. Maybe, but Gentry also had the benefit of failing in two other stints as head coach (DET, LAC) before taking over the Suns reins...Drew doesn't have that background.
For long time Hawks fans, it reeks of a Bob Weiss/Terry Stotts like move, a hire of comfort and ease---a competent assistant gets a shot at the helm. In Stotts case, he did make significant changes in relief of Lon Kruger, and inspired change in a locker room down on the lack of pro savvy of Kruger. In the end, Stotts didn't have the roster (point guard, specifically) to make it work and he was gone soon, too.
And that's what we don't want...a couple of seasons or so of feeling around if Drew can be a head coach. We wanted someone who had done something at the pro head coaching level already. We didn't think Avery would have changed styles much to make the difference here, but he had the track record. We did believe that Dwane Casey could get the most out of the roster given his work with a mediocre group in Minnesota, but he's not coming either. Mark Jackson has as much head coaching experience as Drew (read: zero), but it would definitely had been a high profile hire and anything could have been possible.
We don't know for sure what Larry Drew will be as the Hawks coach, and we're not compelled by it at all, but we'll hope he can change those things which have hindered the Hawks and forced Woodson out and improve the Hawks chances in the playoffs.
Otherwise, the Hawks will be wasting a couple of prime years from their frontcourt of Josh Smith and Al Horford. Teams near the top like the Hawks, with a couple of young All-Star caliber players can't afford a miss on the bench. And, if the Hawks do bring Joe Johnson back, even though his contract may extend for quite a few more season, his stay near the top of his game won't be for much longer, and a two year miss on a coach would waste extremely expensive time.