What looks like pressure to some people looks like an opportunity to Hawks coach Mike Woodson. That's why he was undeterred Thursday after it became clear he'll enter next season in the final year of his contract.
"There's always pressure, if you want to call it that," Woodson said after a day filled with meetings with Hawks officials and ownership. "I don't look at it as pressure because I'm not made like that. All these people talking about fire Woodson and all that stuff, it's never entered my mind. I swear.
"The chatter is what it is. But we're not going to do anything but keep pushing ahead trying to take another step next year."
Neither Woodson nor general manager Rick Sund broached the subject of a contract extension for the coach when they met.
Woodson has guided the Hawks from the depths of a 13-69 record in his first season to steady improvement every season since. They won 26 games in his second season, 30 in his third, 37 in his fourth and 47 this past season.
The Hawks ended a nearly decade-long playoff drought last year by snagging the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, and then pushed the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in their first-round series.
They raised the bar a bit this season by finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, earning one of the four home-court advantage slots in the first round. Their Game 7 win over Miami marked the Hawks' first win in a seven-game series in 39 years.
Sund, who negotiated Woodson's two-year contract extension last summer, was effusive in his praise of Woodson and his staff earlier this week.
"Mike and his staff did a good job this year," Sund said. "We won 47 games and locked up a top-four seed. In our business, that's not something that can be dismissed."
Still, it didn't prompt conversation about another extension.
"I had good meetings [today]," Woodson said. "We had really good meetings. I think we're all on the same page going forward, and that's all you can ask for. Sure, we want to feel loved, my staff and myself. We've put in a lot of hard work over these last five years. But ultimately, it's been about my players and the job they've done."
Woodson remains bitter that his team didn't give a better showing in their Eastern Conference semifinal showdown with Cleveland. The Hawks were swept, as injuries to starters Al Horford, Marvin Williams and then Joe Johnson left them short-handed against league MVP LeBron James and the top-seeded Cavaliers.
But Woodson said he's in good spirits heading into the draft and free agency phase of the offseason. He said the Hawks have delivered on the promise he made to the organization when he was hired.
"Everything I said would happen has happened," Woodson said. "And I'm sure a lot of guys would have been ready to crack with all that we've been through the last five years. But there's nobody more loyal to this organization than I am. I saw the vision when [former GM] Billy [Knight] hired me. I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't. And I promise you, we're not done yet."