I start this blog with 2 disclaimers and a note that yes, I intentionally did not write this blog for 3 days. Notes first:
1. We wish Larry Drew the best in his endeavor as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. This blog is no reflection on Larry Drew the person.
2. We wish to apologize for making the determination that Rick Sund was on the clock. We completely forgot that it is ownership that is the Atlanta Hawks problem.
So, we've let the cat out of the bag a bit...yes, the decision to hire Larry Drew as the coach of the Atlanta Hawks is a big deal to me. I've been very vocal over the past 2 years regarding what ails the Hawks organization most. I've characterized the decisions that the best teams make as 'championship moves.' Well, over the past 15 years, I can count the championship moves on one hand. They are - dumping salary and gathering picks to break up the Smith/Blaylock team, drafting Josh Smith, signing Joe Johnson, and drafting Al Horford. That's it and so it's the lack of championship moves that ail this team. Now, not every 'championship move will result in a championship, but the point is - for various reasons, these things could with a succession of OTHER championship moves resulted in a championship (or some realistic expectation that we'd contend for one). Yet, over the years, I've become accustomed to watching the team be a step too slow or too afraid or too broke to make the bold moves necessary to win the NBA.
Firing Mike Woodson was a necessary step to move the Hawks past its current 2nd round (maybe 1st round depending on what happens this offseason) ceiling and gave hope that the organization realized that it needed to do better to be better. Well, I kept saying over the past month that this coaching search process was troubling for several reasons. And the hiring of Larry Drew is the end result of said trouble. I've read the blogs, the comments, the articles, etc and I'd like to set the record straight on a few things:
1. I think I've mentioned the fact that Billy Knight caught a lot more flak than he should have during his tenure (i.e. he wasn't able to fire the coach he hired, he was not in favor of selecting Marvin Williams over Deron Williams). Now, I won't ever forgive him for selecting Sheldon Williams, but honestly the guy who put together every significant piece on the roster save Jamal Crawford needs more credit than demerits. And now, it looks like Rick Sund is about to get the same pass from me. (details below)
2. Do not let hope be confused with confidence.
I'm hopeful that Larry Drew turns out to be the next Phil Jackson, but that shouldn't be confused with confidence and unfortunately, this is a Barack Obama move...Hope You Can Believe In. You see - Larry Drew would have been a great choice at the time that Mike Woodson was hired, but there's no way that you're going to convince me that this is a great hire..or better yet, a championship move. This was simply a hopeful move done to a) placate a fan base and team that was tired of Mike Woodson and b) save money. And a) probably was done with the hope that b) could be accomplished.
So, Rick Sund, you are off the hook for not only the coaching issues this team has faced, but also for the moves that have been made. I was critical for why your only midseason move was Mario West, but that probably all you were allowed to do. You probably weren't allowed to fire Mike Woodson either. You probably were told to interview coaches that you knew on day one you wouldn't be able to afford to give the illusion of some coaching search.
You see, I don't believe that you are that incompetent that you would let a contract expire only to hire the guy sitting next to him. And let's not be confused here - the people who are endorsing Larry Drew are mostly people who were happy with an empty 50 win season OR are part of the NBA family. Those people in the NBA family aren't going to preemptively knock a coach that is part of their fraternity, so the players, ex-players, and coaches saying that Larry Drew is a great NBA mind means very little to me. I'm going to continue to go with what I see and if he was so great with the players, then why were they sniping at each other repeatedly down the stretch, why were bad habits never really leaving the team, why was motivation of effort such a major problem, why did the offense or defense not get better, and why (if he's so great with the point guards) were Acie Law or Jeff Teague never able to get good enough to get on the court. Yes, Mike Woodson's hands are all over that, but for assistants that you REALLY want to go after - you can see their talents on display in the area that they have their hands on.
Every area I've heard that was a strong suit of Larry Drew's is one that doesn't convince me in any way that it's of championship quality. A 50 win team is not one to be turned over to a first time coach on hope. You invest in the best coach possible to get your team over the hump. You pick a coach that players (read: free agents not named Joe Johnson) would actually jump at the chance to play under. On no level does that fit Larry Drew except for one area that means the most to the Atlanta Spirit and that's money. So, it's no shock that the contract is for 2 years guaranteed at the rock bottom of coaching salary for the NBA.
It has made me question why I cheer for this organization seriously. It can't be that difficult to make championship decisions. It can't be that difficult to draw a line between championships and profitability. For the first time, I actually side with those who laugh at the Hawks, who laugh at our city and our ownership's lack of commitment to excellence. That's what's at stake when you select Larry Drew. He could be Scott Brooks or he could be Terry Stotts. Either way, the fact that I have NO confidence in our ownership's ability to move us forward is what makes me say - why would THIS decision when packaged together with all the other bad basketball decisions (in scouting, drafting, coaching decisions, player moves, etc) is going to be the one that is different and brilliant is just being too hopeful. I didn't want the hire to be 90% more hopeful than excellent for the franchise. But that's where this is - it's time and time is up. Atlanta Spirit, your time is up with me. It's beyond apparent that you have reached Rankin Smith-like ownership levels and they are the reason I'm not a Falcons fan to this day.
Before you wonder whether that's the end of my fan-dom...no, that's not ever in doubt, but I am now retiring my #1 fan-ship and I'm seriously considering retiring from blogging. I never wanted to be that blogger who always complained about things and never gave praise mixed to serious critical thought and that's what I see in the future. And a future where I'm simply upset and not feeling like a true fan is not what I envisioned when I started this blog. I need to do some serious soul searching and see something truly visionary out of this draft and offseason, but to be very clear - I'm not optimistic at all. Not in the draft, not in the offseason, and not in this coach. Sorry, but it's a big epic fail.
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