I was glad when Mike Woodson was not offered an extension this summer. Not in a vindictive way. I want every person to have a job, to feel valued, and all that other mushy stuff. But Woody had made more money than I will probably see in my life so it was not a budget cuts on police officers situation. And the dude was lucky to still have his job. Our coach got a miraculously competitive seven game series loss that saved his job after the 2008 playoffs. That is a fact. Which means last season was not validation. It was the first round of success, not the second. Woodson again had one more year to prove. It means there were still unanswered questions for the long term. Can he coach consistency? Will the team team take the next step?
But what it also means is he has only ever had a playoff caliber team when he was also coaching for his job. That is a tough place to be for a coach who has improved the team (been a part of the improvement) each year he has coached. And while I am one who firmly believes the Joe show is detrimental to the team and the front court offers advantages night in and night out that Joe Johnson just does not give, I do have a very simple question.
If you were Woody and your team is off to the best start in decades, they have won with one strategy, and your job literally depends on it, who are you going to give the ball to? I know Al Horford and Josh are the in vogue choice on the blogosphere and the talk radio, but is that because our job does not depend on it? I don't mean to say I am resign to the Joe show. I think coaching needs some risk, needs some creativity. However, a nine shot fourth quarter by Al Horford and one shot one by Joe Johnson in a loss is going to get a lot louder criticism than a couple of blogs.
I don't know if Mike Woodson will ever change. I don't know if he would have coached more freely with a contract extension. Shoot, I don't know if 15 fourth quarter shots by the front court would elevate the Hawks to the third seed or down to the fifth. Truth is, none of us know. What I do know though is when you are coaching for your job, you are in survival mode, and the only form that has ever taken for any of us is Joe Johnson. Now that some of us think the team could survive further than Joe Johnson has ever taken us, we want to break out. But if you are the guy actually treading water in the middle of the ocean, it is hard to convince someone to switch directions and start swimming toward a new island.
No matter where you fall on this difficult what if, the Irony of it all is Mike Woodson thinks he deserves a contract extension largely thanks to Joe Johnson. Now Woody might not get one because of him.