Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time Really Is Up

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.

Comment away...


Jesse said...

Larry, you and I have been in agreement on almost 100% of things over the last couple years, so I understand where you are coming from. I have been saying for at least the last two seasons, probably three, that the root issues with this team aren't the players, coach, or management, but instead lie with the ownership. They are so meddling, manipulative, and overall just downright cheap, that everyone else below has their hands tied. I agree with you about Knight and knowing those issues he had to deal with, you are right that we can't lay blame on Sund for not being allowed to do his job.

However, that all being said, what exactly did you expect? You can't tell me that you didn't understand this ownership group until now. You had to know that they were in no way going to pay for a coach. Hell, they have even come out and said they wouldn't pay for a coach before Woodson's last extension. This, along with every other penny-pinching move, is exactly what should be expected.

As for Drew, no, he isn't a proven playoff winning coach. In fact, he isn't a former head coach at all. But, if we have been saying that the winning seasons were a by-product of the players getting better together over the years and not a direct reflection of Woodson, then can we not say that it is just as likely that the players could still win as many games or more with a different head coach? This team is still good enough to finish 4th in the East regardless of the coach, all things related to players being equal. I don't think that Drew will be the same as Woodson and I have to believe that after watching for so long that he has a good idea of what not to do, even if he runs the same system.

Maybe hiring Drew isn't a full-blown championship move, but expecting that from the ASG is futile to begin with. Maybe it's just a move to keep us from falling out of playoff contention and a move that allows the ASG to save some money to make a real championship move in the future. Wishing upon a star, maybe they can talk JJ into a good deal and they can go after 'Melo (pipe dream I know, especially considering all that I have stated regarding this ownership not spending money right?).

Regardless, none of this should push you so far as to give up on blogging if it's something that you truly enjoy doing. No one wants to be miserable doing something, so I understand if you've reached your wits end with this organization, but even with some of your hard stances, yours is still a good read. Maybe it all works out and we'll all be pleasantly surprised, or not. Either way, you're a fan son, and I won't allow you to walk out in the middle of the third just because you don't like what you see. You sit down and you endure the bad because it will only make the good that much better.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Jesse, you're correct - I should have not expected anything to change, but the fact that they fired Woodson gave me some illusion that it would, but then my ears perked up when I saw some Derm guy from Portland getting an interview and a bunch of folks we are already familiar with (it takes you 3 interviews to determine whether or not you want Avery Johnson?).

So, my point is I guess I'm just frustrated at window dressing being passed off as progress. This is a WINDOW DRESSING move. No way they did this as a way to move the team forward - they did this because they knew one thing wasn't gonna work, then went back to the reason the first thing didn't work. Don't tell me Sund has the power and then, he doesn't have the power to get a coach. Don't tell me Knight is picking the players then we get Marvin. That's all, so that's why I'm calling BS on all these folks saying - let's wait and see.

You have to wait and see for ANY coach, so to me - this is like signing Mario West when you have a chance for Jerry Stackhouse. Both are chances - both can have positive and negative impacts, but one is a better option that I'd believe in vs. the other. And when you tell me that Mario is going to make a difference and you're happy to have him on the team, then I don't believe in you anymore as a serious contender for a title and that's what this is about. I don't believe we're any less of a playoff team (with or without Joe Johnson) because of this.

Jesse said...

I'm right there with you man. You're right in that the process is full of fail. The ownership have a puppet as a GM and have always cut the legs from that position since day one. I think the list of candidates presented was incomplete at best, regardless of money, and should have been expanded.

For one reason or another, I never had any real expectations for this hire. We weren't going to get a Jackson or Pop type anyway, so I guess this just doesn't bother me that much. At least it sounds like Drew is leaning towards Teague over Bibby. Now that's something you and I have called for since what, December?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Yeah, I'm just venting at having more tangible reasons to believe that we are trying to win a title. There's nothing good about cheering for a team you KNOW isn't trying to win a title. They are just happy to be owners of the team. You don't get into ownership of a team to make money.

What I mean by that is - people aren't buying teams to make money for themselves solely. Owners already have revenue streams and this is just one of them. They look to make it profitable, but if it's not they realize that over time the value of the franchise will increase and when you sell - you make the money then. Our ownership doesn't realize that OR can't afford to swallow the losses now to make the money in the increased value of the franchise. Either way, it sucks. PERIOD.

Jesse said...

That it does.

Jesse said...

This is somewhat off-topic, but it's something that I have been meaning to comment on.

I understand that Mario West is an extremely limited player but he provides much more than Adam Morrison ever has or ever will. Given that our ownership refuses to pay for a full roster, that makes the spot taken by West a somewhat wasted roster spot, but yeah, Adam Morrison. At least West actually gets to wear his jersey for the game.

Anyway, that's my quarterly West defense and I readily admit I'm completely biased in this opinion, haha.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Jesse, I know you are using him as an example, but using Adam Morrison is not really a good comparison for two reasons. 1) Adam can shoot the ball infinitely better than Mario West and 2) Adam is the 15th guy on the team. Mario is not. So, if they had to use a 12 man roster like we do - Adam would be cut. So, my overall point about Mario is that he's emblematic of the fact that we aren't serious about winning a title if he's someone you sign on your roster and he plays minutes.

So, as an example, the Celtics went out and got Nate Robinson and didn't play him, but when they needed him - he has a skill that actually can be used in playoff games. Mario doesn't. I know you're not making that argument, but I just believe that if we have needs that can be served by a better player and you SIGN him and play him, then we're not serious. And that's coming from a GT grad who has met Mario a few things and think the world of him. My bias is for him to be successful in life, but based on what I know of him - if he's playing minutes for your team, your team isn't strong enough to be a title contender or you aren't serious about winning a title even if you have a talented squad. We are the former...I'm convinced now that we simply aren't serious about winning a title.

Jesse said...

Oh contrare sir, 'we' are serious about winning a championship, the ASG however are just content with getting the extra income from making the playoffs.

But yes, I agree with your thoughts as well, I just hate how some people bring up this point but they blame West and bang on him like it's his fault that the Hawks get swept in the second round. Or they blame West for Woodson playing him or Sund for signing him. That to me makes no sense and I just felt the guy needed a little defense out here in the wild wild interwebs.

But back to the point at hand. What can we do about this? Stop going to the games? Write to the organization our unstatisfaction? I think the Orlando series essentially killed me from getting overly emotionally involved. From here on out I am just going to accept that we live under a disfunctional ownership group and that nothing they do will make sense. I can only hope that the coaches and players will get lucky enough to make a run each year and just try to be happy that we are winning again.

I hate how that sounds, but until this organization gets solid ownership, no matter how things change, they'll always be the same.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Well, I think I've been saying that ownership has long been a problem, but once you get over that - I just think that even working within a dysfunctional organization - you do your best. So, I still hold Sund accountable for his mistakes (i.e. you got money that shouldn't go to Mario West, but should go to someone who is functional and if Mike don't play 'em - that's a Mike issue). I still hold the coach accountable for his mistakes even when he doesn't have all the groceries he needs. I still hold the players accountable.

All that said, Mario West was NEVER personally the issue. He did whatever he could do within his skill set, so my West barbs aren't at him. They are at the organization where I'm saying it's so obvious that Stevie Wonder can see that every second he's on the court, our team is compromised. Kinda like watching Bibby for that last half of the season - folks were so blind to the fact that Teague with all his faults was a better all around player than Bibby THIS YEAR! I know they wanted it not to be true because of the fact that it would highlight an extreme waste of money, but sorry - he was better on the defensive enough enough to make up for anything else Bibby did.

ANyway, I'm on a tangent. But you get my point...I ain't mad at Mario. I'd love to be Mario personally.