Michael Tillery: Does loyalty from players and the organization allow you to go for broke regarding your coaching style?
Mike Woodson: I’ve never worried about my job. Every year, somebody has threatened the coach is going to get fired in Atlanta. It’s what it is. I just try to do my day to work with my staff and whatever happens is gonna happen. I can’t control that part of it. The fun part of this is that I’ve been able to grow a basketball team. Management and ownership has given me that opportunity. I’m just trying to take advantage of it.
Now Mike Woodson does not owe us full disclosure, and we are all guilty of hyperbole to prove points but "never" worried about his job? Never coached even a little scared?
I would be the first (ok, maybe the eighth) person to say I do not understand the nuances of coaching in the NBA, that things I see as bad are comprehended so poorly that my view of NBA reality is simply a naive construction of crap. I get that, but if Mike Woodson has really "never" coached with his job in mind, he must really have zero actual trust in his bench.
There is such a thing as coach speak. There is such a thing as reading too much into quotes. But what is frustrating about Mike Woodson is his inability to speak to concerns of fans. He does not need to rationalize every decision or explain away every coaching move, but there is no reason for his only public words to consistently tilt toward arrogance. We are not at war. This is not a your either with me or your against me situation. Fans deserve the right to be sold. We may not know much, but we know enough about basketball to know coach speak is not going to sell us on any coach.
At some point, Woody either needs to be honest or we need to come to terms with the fact that Woody does not know the issues with this team and/or have the ability to articulate them. Is "I try not to let the contract affect me, but I keep my job by winning and sometimes these past few years Joe Johnson playing 44 minutes gave us the best chance to win" or "Al Horford has been great since he showed up, but early on, I did not trust his foul management" too much to ask? Without any kind of honesty from you Woody, I get to keep living in the misinformed reality that you are not a good coach. Because if all I hear is "Listen, I have been at this a long time and in the NBA you got to do that ok..." well, I am going to say in this "with you or against you" quote machine I am, in fact, against you. You don't just "have to do stuff." That is not a good reason. Unless maybe you are coaching for your job.
Here is the deal coach. You have gotten so much better. Your resume is quite impressive on the surface with the Hawks getting better every year. But you are not perfect so there is no reason to act like it. Public opinion is probably not going to help keep your job or make you lose it. So I understand where media interviews might seem like a place where nuance and effort are optional, but if you cannot articulate your decisions publicly in a way that helps define players roles, affirms guys into better play, criticizes others toward improvement, and all those other good coaching things, well then what makes me think you can do it in private? If all you say is, "I have never been scared of losing my job." What is Jeff Teague thinking about his ability? How about Joe Johnson's tired, broken down body the last two seasons? Because to me, those things make me think you are very scared of losing your job. If you ask about team goals for the rest of the season and the only one you mention is not getting caught by the Bucks, well, you need to work on your sales pitch.
The best coaches use the media. They coax players to be better. They call out obvious detrimental play. They define roles for the eight man so that eighth man knows he is being counted on. Basically, coaches are always coaching for their job. They are working every angle. They are desperate to milk the last ounce of potential out of their guys. Not coaching for your job is taking this mentality to the maximum.
Unfortunately, the face you put forward for every part of your public portrayal is a coach I don't want leading this team. Is that the right view point? I don't know, but I would appreciate you articulating why I am wrong on occasion instead of just repeating "poor energy" after losses and "that's Joe being the all-star that he is" after wins. If it is your job to sell athletes who get paid millions of dollars no matter what on a vision of success, it should not be hard to sell me on one. Since you know, I actually pay to buy in.