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Larry Drew; Safe Hire or Smart Hire?

This off season is not that old, yet one could already describe it with the saying "Expect the unexpected." Or maybe some Hawk fans would describe it with " The more things change, the more they stay the same." At any rate, Friday's announcement that former Mike Woodson assistant Larry Drew would be named as the club's new head coach left many Hawks fans bewildered, satisfied, and a few angry. 

This writer has to admit that I didn't see this one coming. I described Drew's chances of getting the job as less than remote. Of the four candidates Drew was deemed the less desirable because he was an assistant under Mike Woodson. After all the organization had deemed that the team needed a fresh start and fresh voice going forward. Clearly that would have to come from the outside right?

Perhaps not.

Yet when the dust cleared it was not Avery Johnson, Dwane Casey, or Mark Jackson that was being announced as the next Head Coach of the Atlanta Hawks. That honor instead is going to none other than Larry Drew. How did we get to this? Well no one is really sure. No doubt that it appears that Avery Johnson was perhaps the franchise's favorite as many reports were that the Hawks were regrouping after he verbally committed to the New Jersey Nets.

It was after this that questions popped up again as to what kind of hoops General Manager Rick Sund has to jump through to make a hire due to the many faces of Hawks Ownership that makes up the Atlanta Spirit Group. The sentiment had been all along that Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey was the favorite for the job. That rumor was there even before Mike Woodson wasn't offered a contract. He was viewed as Sund's guy, their relationship having dated back to Seattle where Casey was an assistant. Yet details were scarce and it appeared that yet again ownership couldn't agree on a candidate. That leaves us to wonder if this was in fact Rick Sund's hire?

Then came Friday's announcement. I admit being underwhelmed by the hire which is a little ironic given that I have been involved in a discussion in the comments section of this very blog about the importance of substance over hype. Yet here I was not happy with the selection. Maybe that was because he was a part of the Mike Woodson regime and that was what I thought the team was trying to distance themselves from. Drew has been described as having a brilliant basketball mind and he will get the opportunity to show it. It will also be interesting to see who he brings in as he assembles a coaching staff.

Let us wrap our mind around this hire before we judge it. Throughout history there have been many cases of an assistant coach taking over for a head coach. One of the more famous cases is Phil Jackson. Recently Alvin Gentry made the move from assistant to head coach when he took over for Terry Porter. As Drew was gaining momentum, he was often compared to Gentry, however there are some differences there. As Jason pointed out earlier Gentry had been a head coach previously with the Clippers and the Pistons and had been fired. Drew has no previous head coaching experience.

Still there is another difference. Gentry replaced Terry Porter but also was on Mike D'Antoni's staff also in Phoenix. Upon taking over for Porter he quickly got the Suns back to playing the way they did under D'Antoni. Which just so happened to be the favorable system for their fans and their players. No one here wants to see Larry Drew copy Mike Woodson.

It would be foolish for Drew to repeat the mistakes that Woodson made and there is no one else out there that had a closer seat than he did to view those sort of things. As an assistant he had the best perspective to observe this team and hopefully he has the means to correct those problems. Hopefully he has the imagination to make the offense more dynamic and imaginative and less iso driven. Hopefully he has the players ears and can make them more accountable for their play on the court. Hopefully he can bring that fresh voice to this team.

Critics will say that this hire was about money. That Drew will come cheap. Others will speculate that this hire was about bringing back Joe Johnson in many ways. One because he is familiar with Drew and another because they saved money on the coach they might be more inclined to offer more Johnson's way. At this point those claims are purely speculation, but remain valid assumptions.

While Drew wasn't my pick I will support him as I have a soft spot for coaches like him. Here is a guy who is a life long assistant that has done his job the correct way. He has fourteen seasons under his belt and he is finally getting his shot. Now it is up to him to prove that he is deserving.