Since the Hawks have gotten it right involving that patience thing with their head coach, let's ask one of their primary owners why so many of his peers around the NBA have continued to get it wrong. First, here's a memo to those peers of Hawks owners: In pro sports, it's about the players (or lack thereof), especially in Basketball.
Coaches? Not so much. They only matter a lot in the NBA if they can get their naturally offensive-minded players to defend more often than not --- you know, like a particular coach in Atlanta.
That said, talent-challenged Memphis just became the seventh NBA franchise this season to whack its head coach. So, courtesy of previous firings in Washington, Toronto, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Minnesota, the league is two firings shy of tying its record of nine during the 2004-05 season.
It's outrageous. In contrast, when it comes to the Hawks, it's outstanding, with their young roster maturing, and with Mike Woodson spending his previous four seasons as their defense-minded coach watching his team surge in victories from 13 to 26 to 30 to 37. Now, after their 117-87 thrashing of the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at Philips Arena, the Hawks are dribbling toward their most victories during a season in more than a decade at 26 and counting.
"You kinda gotta be patient with coaches," said Michael Gearon Sr., the noted everyman of the Hawks. He has spent 30-plus years with the franchise, including the past five as one of its nine owners. Added Gearon, who joins his son, Michael Jr., in making the key Basketball decisions for Atlanta Spirit, LLC, "I think there is a tendency to look for immediate solutions and to look for scapegoats. But you should treat this in the same sense as if you've started a restaurant, and you've just hired a new cook.
"He's back there, cooking stuff up, and you may be getting a lot of smells out of the kitchen, but you're not going to know what you've got until that new cook puts it on the table and people eat it. You don't want to start messing with him based on those smells out of the kitchen."
Those smells were awful for the Hawks after general manager Billy Knight blew up the mess of roster that he inherited. He handed the cooking duties to Woodson, a rookie NBA head coach, whose recipe involved defense, defense and more defense. Even so, his young team refused to digest it all.
It didn't help Woodson's cause that Knight kept ignoring brilliant point guards in the draft (In case you're wondering, the aforementioned Chris Paul and Deron Williams rank first and second in the league in assists).
Then, after Knight acquired veteran Mike Bibby last February in a trade, Knight told the Gearons and the other Hawks' owner that they should fire the cook.
The Gearons ignored Knight and the smells. As a result, Woodson's Hawks made the playoffs for the first time this millennium, and then they gave the eventual world champion Boston Celtics fits during a seven-game series.
Woodson is still around.
"I am very humble and appreciative of [the owners] being realistic about what I walked into five years ago," Woodson said. "I'm a realist. I know that when you gut a team, regardless of what the media and fans say, and you start young --- you know, this is 26 years for me [associated with the NBA], and I've never seen a young team win."
You never will, but you will see coaches get the blame for it.
GIVE HIM SOME TIME
In his first three seasons with the Hawks, coach Mike Woodson started 5-25 (2004-05), 3-16 (2005-06) and 9-21 (2006-07), but management showed patience. Not every team is so understanding. A look at the seven NBA coaches who have been fired this season and their record at the time:
P.J. Carlesimo ..Thunder ......1-12
Maurice Cheeks ..76ers ........9-14
Reggie Theus ....Kings ........6-18
Sam Mitchell ....Raptors ......8-9
Eddie Jordan ....Wizards ......1-10