Are ya'll ever gonna pay this man, or are you waiting for him to start turning magic tricks?
I really can't understand what more Mike Woodson needs to do to get some support (the financial kind) from the Atlanta Hawks. In between Billy Knight trying to throw him under the bus to save his job and Rick Sund signing him to two-year deal (that's his way of saying, "we're giving you just long enough to get yourself fired,"), Mike Woodson has taken this team from a joke of a team to the second round of the playoffs. In 2009, they're one of the top teams in the league (record-wise).
And he did it in four years and some change. The team's record got better every season. They pushed the eventual-champion Boston Celtics to seven games. They got out of the first-round for the first time since 1999. I'm thinking he must not be kissing the right amount of ass for them to favor him, even though successful organizations typically just want their head coach to win basketball games. And keep from getting choked by his players.
All he's ever done is his job, without complaining about Josh Smith's bad shot selection or how Billy Knight waited until he was about to get fired to bring in a real point guard. No, we can't have that. Who care that the Hawks are improving? They must want a master showman, full of witty soundbites, like Phil Jackson. Well, too bad, Atlanta Hawks. Every coach can't be Phil Jackson. If you wanted him, you should have tried to hire him. I'm sure he would have stopped laughing at you eventually, but it can't hurt to try.
Instead of complaining about what he isn't, why not look at the facts?
1. He got this team to commit to playing defense. You know, because Woodson understood that if your team can't score, maybe you should see about keeping the other team from scoring, too. So he gave this team an identity: Defense and rebounding.
Sure, some people thought, "Yeah, let's let these high school kids with no real point guard or actual scoring threat just run and gun. It's the best way for them to learn," but those people have no business coaching a team, like Mark Bradley. Sure, they'll be entertaining, but they'll lose. A LOT. Most recently, "the Sonics" won about 13 games using that strategy, and they had Kevin Durant. The Hawks had Antoine Walker and Al Harrington at the time, and they couldn't win using that strategy BEFORE Woodson got there.
2. He turned Josh Smith into a productive player. When Josh Smith came out of high school, he was just a tall guy who could jump really high. He couldn't shoot, he couldn't dribble, and he didn't play defense. He only got drafted because Billy Knight was forever enthralled by Bilas Buzzwords, like "potential," "wingspan," and "athleticism."
And look at Josh Smith today. Averaging about 20 and 9, consistently leading the league in blocks, and one of the team's anchors. Sure, some of that was going to happen anyway, but Josh Smith does some dumb stuff out there sometimes, like throwing up three-pointers that he can't make. Like trying to make passes on the break. And even though he is one of the stars of the team, Woodson has been willing to go to the mat with Josh Smith, which is almost unheard of in the NBA today.
Take on one of your stars? Are you kidding me? I don't care how many bad shots Mo Williams takes, I bet Mike Brown isn't gonna call him out. Josh Smith needed that. He needed someone to say, "Hey, you suck as a three-point shooter. How about you stand closer to the paint. You know, a place where you have the advantage?" And since he never played for Bobby Knight, Mike Woodson had to be that guy.
Yeah, he still takes bad shots, but he's cutting back. I watched a game last week where I didn't see him take a single ill-fated three pointer. Now, that's progress.
3. He thrived as a coach despite being saddled with Billy Knight. That alone should get him an award of some kind. Nobel should start handing out a sports award, because the stars were lined up for yet another first-time head coach to get fired at the start of his third season. Just look at the situation: A poorly run franchise hires a first-time head coach and sticks him with a roster of high school players. That exact same situation has killed tons of coaches, many of them right here in Atlanta. Terry Stotts never did really catch on, did he?
4. He turned the team into something that doesn't embarrass the city. Or was I mistaken when I saw that sold out Philips Arena during the playoffs the last two seasons? It wasn't like so many nights when the Lakers would come to town to play at Staples East. No, these people were actually cheering for the Hawks.
What more could you possibly want? Angels singing his names from the heavens? That won't happen; he's not Tony Dungy. Maybe they're so blinded by the success of years' past that they can't see the good thing sitting in their laps. That happens sometimes when you have such a storied history. Other than the Clippers, how many teams can say that they have THAT MANY consecutive losing seasons?
I get that Rick Sund is kinda new around here, and that General Managers usually like to have their own people in place, but they shouldn't ever listen to Mark Bradley or Jeff Schultz. They've got a really good coach in a league where so many teams fall apart because they don't have one. Not to keep harping on them, but look at the Clippers. Even when they're good, they're a disaster waiting to happen, and Mike Dunleavy doesn't exactly strike me as the captain to lead them through the storm. The only reason why he hasn't been fired is because Donald Sterling doesn't want to have to hire another coach while he's still paying this one.
Now, if the Hawks don't want to pay the man, I'm sure someone will gladly take him off their hands and Atlanta can get back to the days where sadsack coaches could always find a place to hang their hats. But Atlanta deserves better than that, and for the first time since the mid 90s, right before Pete Babcock destroyed it all, it actually has it.
Just give Mike Woodson his extension. No one can say the man hasn't earned it.