And if he looks familiar, that’s because he’s been on the bench the last six years under former head coach Mike Woodson. According to the AJC’s Michael Cunningham, Larry Drew has been named the new coach of my beloved Atlanta Hawks. After Avery Johnson took the Nets job, the final candidates were Drew, Dwayne Casey and Mark Jackson (the latter of whom has never coached at any level). Ultimately the Hawks decided to go with familiar rather than flashy.
I don’t know how I feel about this. None of the names in the candidate search (including Johnson) really impressed me. I was hoping for an out-of-the-blue choice to come in and be named, but it just didn’t happen. The Hawks played this one close to home and all I can do is remain optimistic. This deal is so new the contract is still being worked out, and Drew hasn’t said thing one about his plans, philosophy or what he’s going to do with the rest of the coaching staff.
There’s a part of me that finds the promotion of the assistant troubling. If they knew this was a possibility, why wasn’t this done at any point during the last 6 years of the Woodson regime? Sure, the guy had a contract, but coaches get fired all the time, some with longer tenures and better pedigrees. I feel like this move could have, and probably should have, been made during a season as a trial run. You have more options in the offseason to conduct your search, but at least you can see how things work out in real situations if you give one of your assistants the reins while things still matter. Maybe the Hawks were never bad enough to fire Woodson after they got better, but don’t tell that to former Cleveland Cavs skipper Mike Brown. He was fired a year after being named Coach of the Year and following a second consecutive 60+ win season.
I’m contradicting myself a little bit, but I’m concerned. Your coach is as big, if not bigger, as any decision you could ever make regarding the roster. Scott Skiles in Milwaukee is a prime example. His best players kept getting hurt, and he kept his team winning even into the playoffs against a supposedly superior opponent. I’ll give Drew his day, but the Hawks need to look at things beyond wins and losses as Drew takes control.
- Are we more consistent on defense?
- Does our half-court offense look less anemic?
- Can we develop Jeff Teague?
- Is there a bench that can be used?
Drew doesn’t need to win next year, that would be kidding ourselves. But all the little things that spell out championship basketball (aka fundamentals) need to improve. That’s how we’ll know if we’ve got our guy or a dud.
Make us proud, Larry Drew. This is your shot. Own it.