If this is the final hurrah for Larry Drew in the Highlight Factory, let him not go down in the annals of Atlanta Hawks history as a forgotten coach.
By all measures, Drew has done a fine job in just three seasons as coach of the Hawks. He guided the team to a quiet 128-102 record over the past three seasons, which is good for a 56% winning percentage. His 128 wins place him 7th all-time in franchise history, despite every coach before him holding the position for more than three seasons. His winning percentage is only bested by Ed MaCauley, Henry Gallatin, Lenny Wilkens and Mike Fratello among those with at least 100 games as head coach. Even Drew’s post-season record of 10-14 is a marked improvement over his predecessor, the current head coach of the New York Knicks, Mike Woodson.
Atlanta’s rosters have seen major turnover in just three years. Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia were the only players to play under Drew for all three years, as dozens of more minor players have come and gone due to the financial situation of the franchise. For this reason, it’s no wonder it was difficult to produce a consistent outcome on a game by game basis. There was a ferris wheel in the place of steady role players. If the Hawks are to have success in the near future, they will need consistency and longer than one season stints with a constant roster. Larry Drew was given a bad hand in the estimation of most and that factoid should not be forgotten.
Despite this unfortunate situation, the Hawks may look in a different directions. His quotes upon the end of the Hawks season were particularly revealing, “I thought we had a really good season given what our circumstances were. They weren’t the best,” Drew said. “Whether I’m back here or not, I don’t know. The one thing I will say is I’ve had a great run here.” Drew has already been linked to the open position in Philadelphia.
Just as Rick Sund looked for someone under Mike Woodson’s tutelage to succeed him, Ferry may look to a Gregg Popovich assistant for the same reason, such as Mike Budenholzer. Budenholzer has been an assistant in San Antonio since 1996, the same year as the arrival of Gregg Popovich, overseeing all four of the Spurs championships in franchise history. Danny Ferry has connections to San Antonio as a player from 2000-2003 and in the front office until taking the general manager position in Cleveland in 2008.
Quin Snyder’s name also comes up in rumors for the position. He played on the same basketball team at Duke with Danny Ferry for four years, including three tournament runs to the final four. They were even roommates at Duke, as Sam Amico points out. In Cleveland, Ferry was the general manager while Mike Brown coached until his release in 2010. Brown brought on Quin Snyder upon taking the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching position in 2011. In 2012, Snyder left for an assistant coaching position for CSKA Moscow in Russia.
Both of these coaches would represent a sharp departure from the status quo. Though neither have any head coaching experience, they both are long time assistants and come from successful lineages of coaching. Popovich’s merits are well documented but another name that Marc Stein brings up is Ettore Messina, whom Snyder coaches next to in Russia. His list of accomplishments are saturated with a number of championship notifications. He is a four time Euroleague Champion, twice the Euroleague Coach of the Year, 4 times Italian League Champion, 7 times Italian Cup Champion, 4 time Russian League Champion and twice a Russian Cup Champion during his almost 25 years of coaching in Europe. He was even a consultant for the Lakers the same year Snyder and Brown were together in 2011.
If either of these candidates or a different darkhorse can bring the same championship mentality to the organization in the years ahead, it will be more than enough to enthrall Hawks fans nationwide.