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Hawks Coaching Search---Who's Next?

Mike Woodson is out. The names are already swirling about the Hawks' Next Head Coach.

We advocate that they wear out every possible avenue to get the best coach available---including trying to lure Doc Rivers out of his contract with Boston to return to a Hawks bench. (A possibility, however, thought to be next to impossible and doubtful at best, according to Jeff Clark from CelticsBlog. Clark guesses that, even if Doc leaves after this season, it will be to spend time with his family and ESPN folks--a good guess, I would say.) 

But, as we stated before, the Hawks probably aren't willing to go too far into the bank account in their quest for the next tan-suited general. Atlanta is, however, a top destination in that they are playoff ready and have a young core of players to build with. This might entice someone to come aboard even if it's not top dollar.

Likely, the Hawks will select from the following groups of candidates:

The list after the jump:

Former Coaches:

Byron Scott:

Former Nets and Hornets coach who has had success but has been run off his posts in spite of that in both his head coaching stops. Want to know just a little bit about Scott? Check out this self-described "million word" opus on the former head coach by At The Hive.

Sam Mitchell:

Former Raptors coach, lives in Atlanta, and was supposed to be a player friendly coach in Toronto, where he was let go in 2008 with an 8-9 record that season. He played veterans more than rookies, yet was given praise for molding Chris Bosh into his All-Star, soon to be max contract, self. He was accused of being X and O deficient, and being unable to explain things when the team lost its way. 

Maybe it's best explained by Raptors HQ when he was let go:

Sam Mitchell is a great coach to get your team into competition.

However, you need another coach to bring your team to the next step.

Maurice Cheeks:

Cheeks was popular in both Portland and Philadelphia, but has been accused of the old "rolling the ball out" strategy in order to compensate for some deficiency in tactical abilities. In Philadelphia, he continued to try and play uptempo basketball with Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, and team, but was handed the antithesis of such strategy in the offseason with Elton Brand, and never could reconcile the two until he was let go early in Brand's first year with the Sixers.

Eric Musselman:

E-Muss is a personal favorite, having covered him as an assistant with the Hawks under Lon Kruger. Musselman is a tireless worker and strategist, but ran afoul of some players in Golden State and was given a single season with Sacramento before massive dysfunction and perhaps a lack of total support from his GM got him run from there. Maybe the anti-players coach.

Larry Brown:

Yes, he's not an ex-coach yet, but come on---this is Larry Brown we're talking about. I'd take him in less than a second. Basketball. Coach.


TV Analysts:

Avery Johnson:

Johnson was let go as Mavericks coach in May, 2008 after being unable to adjust to the roster he was presented, coming to a head late in that season, according to Mavs Moneyball.

Some insight into the soul of the now-ESPN analyst:

After the Denver loss, the first thing he did was strip Devin Harris of his freedom to run the offense. Fast breaks and offensive sets built off of transition were removed, as Johnson slowed the game down so that he could call plays and run the offense. For the first 20 games the Mavs offense was clocking in at 90 pace, a significant gain over the previous year's glacial offensive pace. As we noted in a previous column, however, the pace was inconsistent. Twice in November Harris directed back-to-back-to-back games where the first game had a pace of over 95, which was followed up with a game where the pace plummeted to under 84, only to have the pace increase again to over 92. This inability to control the pace of the game clearly drove Johnson crazy, and the low point was, not coincidentally, the Denver game on December 6, where the Mavs played completely at Denver's pace, over 100.

The next five games after Denver the Mavs pace never went over 85 and averaged an almost unbelievably slow pace of 83. To put this into perspective, the slowest team in 2006-2007 was the Detroit Pistons, and they averaged a pace of 86. After Denver, Johnson put the hammer down on Harris, and he never let up.


Jeff Van Gundy:

Van Gundy was relieved of duty after (4) years with the Houston Rockets, with Daryl Morey wanting desperately to hire still-head coach Rick Adelman, due to Adelman being a more up-tempo coach. A stellar defensive head coach, Van Gundy is 430-318 as a head coach with playoff experience galore with the Rockets and, of course more famously, the Knicks.

Mark Jackson:

Mark is also in the ESPN stable, and has made overtures regarding being a head coach. Being a novice, nobody knows what he might be like as the head man, but was a tough minded point guard throughout his career.

Kevin McHale:

McHale is an interesting candidate, in that he looks like he might be a good head coach, but his years as decision maker for the Timberwolves might make being submissive a tad difficult for one who would want to hire him. Says Canis Hoopus:

 On one hand, I think McHale has the goods to be an outstanding NBA coach.  He is, as Kahn mentioned several times during the press conference, a fantastic communicator and he seemingly has a wonderful way with NBA ego management.  We also know that he's a let's-take-care-of-it-in-practice kind of coach and I think that is the best way to handle things in a players' league.  Say what you will about the importance of January or whether or not the team he put together has any promise, but McHale got solid improvement out of Al JeffersonRandy Foye, and Kevin Love during the time at the end of the bench.  There was promise there and it was a bird in the hand, not the bush.  On the other hand, I had the feeling that McHale simply didn't have the makeup to properly adjust to the new responsibilities that being a coach, not a GM-type, entailed.  He just seems like a stubborn ass in this department and I completely agree with Kahn's assessment that it would have been an uncomfortable fit for everyone involved to have McHale coach a team that, by all of Kahn's statements, will look very different from the vision the Iron Ranger had in mind. 


Current Assistants:

Hiring from an assistant pool is tough because you just don't know how they'll be as a head coach. The Hawks have their own in Larry Drew, but does anybody know what kind of coach Drew would be after being Woodson's right hand man all these years? Nope.

Tom Thibodeau, Celtics

Thibodeau was a hot name when the C's made their run a couple of seasons ago, and their recent upset of the Cavaliers is sure to get the stove cooking again. His reputation is built around hard defensive play and strategy. 

Patrick Ewing, Magic

Ewing has been mentored by Stan Van Gundy, he of the endless preparation and paranoia. Oh, and success as well, in case one hasn't noticed. 

Monty Williams, Portland

Williams is a hot name in coaching candidate circles, having interviewed already in Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

Dan Majerle, Suns

Coming from the Suns bench, Majerle could be tops among those looking for a more offensive approach to the game. Majerle also interviewed with the Sixers.

Tyrone Corbin, Jazz

Corbin was mentioned in the above link and his candidacy has to be linked to teams that want to try and replicate Jerry Sloan's wildly successful model there in Salt Lake City. Corbin, of course, also wore the Hugging Hawk unis of the Mookie/Smitty/Mutombo era. His proclivity to shooting a jump shot with his foot barely on the three point lined inspired me to call those shots "a Ty Corbin three." You know, in case you cared. (Don't answer)

Dwane Casey, Mavericks

Casey was a hot candidate when the Hawks hired Woodson back in 2004, and I had him listed as a potential candidate to replace Terry Stotts. The Wolves fired him under odd circumstances in 2007 considering his plus .500 record at the time.


College Ranks:

College coaches have been famous flops in the NBA, including the first two on this list. The Hawks failed in luring Tom Izzo over 10 seasons ago and settled for Lon Kruger, who ushered in a nice guy, bad coach era for the Hawks.

John Calipari/Rick Pitino: 

We'll put these guys together, but it would take a truck load of money/power to get these guys out of the their foxholes in Kentucky, and, given their collective toe-stub at the NBA level, why would a team go that route?

Billy Donovan:

I almost asked it during the Magic series but, boy, how things might have been different for the Magic if Billy had simply cashed checks at Amway instead of Gainesville? 

Coach K:

The ultimate college coaching gambit. Like Calipari and Pitino, it would take a lot of money to lure Coach K into an NBA bench. It would also have to be a perfect fit, like when he flirted with coaching Kobe in Los Angeles years ago. His work with the Olympic team has given him plenty of NBA cred, so a franchise serious about looking at everyone has to peek here as well.


Lawrence Frank has interviewed in New Orleans after being dismissed earlier this year by New Jersey. Mike Fratello has also interviewed, indicating he would also be willing to return to coaching. Rockets assistant Elston Turner has interviewed in Chicago and in Philly, as has former Piston Bill Laimbeer (PHL).