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Why the Josh Smith/Mike Woodson feud is more than a feud

Mike Woodson does things as a coach that drive fans crazy. Most fans would say certain aspects of his coaching style simply are not good. No coach is immune to this of course. I do not troll San Antonia Spurs forums, but I assume they nitpick aspects of Gregg Popovich coaching. It is the right of the fan. It is probably an irrational right, but it is something one gains through an 82 game membership initiation. It is a trial that no national media or even local columnist can really be a part of. As a fan, one enters into the ability to harp, and this type of critique is not to sell papers or create new subject material but simply comes out of an irrational desire to see your team win.

As long as a fan knows he or she tends toward the crazy more often than not, I don't think the demands placed on a coach or player is a bad thing in and of itself. They come out of actually watching the game and caring about the result and more often than not do not fall too far from the truth.

On his best day of course, Woodson is no Popovich. As fans cry over the use of Roger Mason Jr., Pop can just point to one of his rings, and say your going to need four more of those issues before I start to care. The Hawks coach does not quite have this luxury. His defense is a first round loss in the playoffs. And Hawks fans already have four other things.

So when Josh Smith says "This isn't about two people hating each other. It's not a personal thing like that. We just agree to disagree on some things" fan alarms begin to go off. Because for fans, only championships allow us to agree to disagree. If Acie Law is not developed as a player, and the Hawks are swept out of the playoffs, fans cannot say agree to disagree. We demand to know what would happen if things had been done differently. We don't go home with a few million in the bank account, our job complete, hoping for a better outcome next time.

People may disagree with whether Woodson should have been fired already, but I do not think many could argue he would have been fired in most other places. Billy Knight's attempt to end his tenure multiple times shows how normal that outcome would have been. Point blank, the state of the ownership has kept Woody in place. They have neither the money nor the solidarity to fire the coach.

And this has been a good thing. A very, very young team, a rebuilding project to end most rebuilding projects, has been given the consistency to grow. I would hate to see what Josh Smith and Marvin Williams' development would have looked like if they not only had to grow into their body and role as players but had to do so while changing offenses and coaches. It took Marvin three years to develop a three point shot. Imagine if he was learning new defensive schemes along side that. Moreover, outside of Chris Paul clearing waivers, the Hawks probably are not winning the championship this year. They clearly were not winning the last few years. Therefore, the Woodson tenure has provided a solid foundation for structure and growth of a very young team. A structure and stability rarely found with a coach whose winning percentage stands currently at .369.

All that said though, what this one Sekou Smith article regarding the player coach dynamic says to me though is that the Mike Woodson era finally needs to end after this season.


Mike Woodson does not simply irritate fans. He apparently irritates players. And at some point, you must realize that Woodson's lack of any post offense, his disappointing player rotation, his inability to understand foul management, and his continual failure to energize players for certain games are simply indictments and not problems. And you begin to see the players Woodson has helped develop have problems that cannot be solved because of the indictments on Woodson. The development has run its course.

Anthony Johnson, Josh Childress, Salim Stoudamire, Josh Smith, Acie Law, Zaza Pachulia (ht hoopinion), and Boris Diaw. That is four first round and two second round (what we gave up for AJ) picks that have butted heads with Woodson. This is all but three of the Hawks draft picks since 2004, and that is a serious problem.

Over the last few days, we now know, as Bret put it, "the culture of open communication and trust between players and coach is palpable." We have players like Acie Law who apparently hide injuries. I guess Acie's playing time is as arbitrary to him as it is to us because he will not give his coach any reason to not play him when he actually finds himself in the rotation. Our players are hiding injuries until they are forced to reveal them.

Woodson's poor coaching now overshadows his good coaching. His poor management and communication with players now supersedes the benefits of stability.

The problems we have with the players are mostly solvable ones. The problems we have with Woodson are innate to the way he things about basketball. We have problems with some players shot selection; Woodson thinks defense is the best offense. We have reached the point where our coach's fundamental entrenchment in what he believes has separated from what the team needs. For the Hawks to reach the next level, the team's offense cannot "work itself out." Over half the Hawks draft picks cannot agree to disagree with the man who runs the team day in and day out.

Every coach has limitations. Woodson has reached his. He has been given impressive rope and done an impressive job with the longer shelf life. The Hawks are rebuilt. At some point though, as Josh Smith points out, you are running a business. You are in the business of winning, and the Hawks cannot win much more than they have with Mike Woodson as coach.