Rick Sund: “Ultimately at the end of the day, I think it was I think the time was right to hear another voice and to have someone else come in.”May 18, 2010 – 9:48 am by timgunter
The Atlanta Hawks had a great regular season finishing with fifty-three wins and as the number three seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. After another horrible seven-game, first round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, they were swept once again in the second round by division rival, the Orlando Magic, and decided not to re-sign Mike Woodson. Thus ending a six-year coaching tenure in which the Hawks won just thirteen games in Woodson’s first season, then improved every season since, including three straight playoff appearances.
This was the right decision for Atlanta. They are no longer the youngest team in the NBA. Their players have grown up and have somewhat matured since Woodson’s arrival but this team needs more. They need a coach that can come and install a proven offensive and defensive system, someone that can mentor and develop their young point guard, Jeff Teague, as well as someone that is somewhat of an authoritative figure. Woodson was a player’s coach that would never call out his team for their lack of play or mental mistakes. If Atlanta can find the right candidate and re-sign Joe Johnson, this team could potentially be the number two seed next year. If not, they might drop to the sixth of seventh seed.
Hawks General Manager Rick Sund joined WQXI in Atlanta to talk about what process he went through to come to the conclusion to let Mike Woodson go, how much a coach walking in the door with a championship ring on his finger means to players, and whether having head coaching experience is a prerequisite for the new head coach.
What process he went through to come to the conclusion to let Mike Woodson go:
“I think what you have to do is really sit. The first two days, I told you this, the very first two days after the season you have to put closure to it and closure means your exit interviews, talking to your staff and also talking to the media. I spent virtually a day addressing all of the media and all of the media questions and I give the courtesy of doing a one-on-one. By the time, your first two days are booked practically to the evening. I phrased it this way, I framed it this way, the next season starts tomorrow. You mentioned that Woody would have been a free agent. That didn’t necessarily enter into the deal because if we were going to move forward teams could still talk to him. I think it was a fair contractual thing for him to have in his contract because you don’t want something to drag out and him lose other opportunities with some clubs if we were going to do a new contract. But the homework of assessing was that you have to separate emotions, like you said Chris (Dimino), but then the process for me was really writing down all of the things analyzing all of the things that made some sense to make a decision where you get a new contract, write down all of the things that is maybe a time for a change. Ultimately at the end of the day, I think it was I think the time was right to hear another voice and to have someone else come in. As I say that, last year, couple of years ago at this time there was a lot of speculation because his contract was up. Should you make a coaching change? Should you move forward? Did, basically the same thing but a longer search because I was new or a longer research timetable and I think that we made the right decision. Mike was the right coach for going forward and we got criticized for that. In retrospect, I think it was a very good decision for the Hawks and I think it was for Mike.”
On the disappointment of losing game three to the Magic:
“The disappointment for game three should be everybody’s blame. My blame, the players blame, the coaches blame, and blame Orlando. They were better and they played terrific so it is a combination of all of those. I don’t think that it is just one person or what have you. At the end of the day for right or for wrong I felt that it was necessary, six years is like a lifetime in coaching for one particular team. As it was, Woody was second or third in length of tenure with one team. I don’t know if that is right or wrong with sports but that is the way that it is. I thought that with a new voice this is a good time for Woody, it is not necessarily a favor for Woody, I think that it is a good time. Two years ago if a decision was made he probably wouldn’t be in such a favorable position. He is in a good position for him.”
How much a coach walking in the door with a championship ring on his finger means to players:
“You know, it probably does I think because whenever the big names, the Rileys, Phils or the track record-type of coaches… The players always respond well. He has got our attention in what he accomplished. I think there is some validity to that.”
Whether having head coaching experience is a prerequisite for the new head coach:
“Yeah, again, I have gone through kind of the same analytical process and then you take that analytical process and it is kind of interesting to see how I put it. I am not avoiding your question for a second. You know I think that you have to have a long list and a short list and people say, why the long list? It is because I don’t want anyone to slip through the cracks and say that ‘Geez, I didn’t think about that guy.’ So that is the reason that I do that. I don’t concentrate on the long list so much, so I shouldn’t say we because I have that management staff and ownership look at it. Then with that, I break that down into valuable coaches with coaching experience that aren’t coaching today. Then you break it down to assistant coaches who have maybe had head coaching experience then you break it down to assistant coached who may be up and coming coaches then you have kind of out-of-the-box candidates and then you look at college coaches. So you put together thirty names and then you kind of make that long list, short list, and then you go from there and that is the process that is. Over the weekend I spent an awful lot of time going over that list and parameters. Now to answer your question, what I did I spent several hours, a lot of hours analyzing with the staff, ‘OK with our club, what makes a good profile for somebody to come in here and coach?’ Let’s not take a person, let’s hypothetically create and then say ‘Which one of these guys kind of fills some of the things that we talked about?’ So that is kind of the process that we have gone through. Then at the end of the day, it all goes to an intuitive gut anyway.”
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