By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
Posted May 14 2010 11:52AM
ATLANTA -- The Hawks parted ways with Mike Woodson Friday morning, ending his coaching tenure with the franchise after six seasons.
Woodson was informed in a Friday morning meeting with Hawks' management that that he would not be offered a new contract after leading the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances in his final three seasons.
"After careful consideration, we have made a difficult decision regarding coach Woodson's contractual status," Hawks GM Rick Sund said in a statement. "We're grateful for Mike's contributions over the last six years and we want to wish him the very best."
Woodson's contract expired Monday, forcing the Hawks to make a quick decision. Woodson is now free to explore his options with a half dozen coaching vacancies around the league, while the Hawks embark on a search of their own for his replacement.
Woodson declined to comment on his ouster when reached by The Associated Press.
"I'm just going to take some time and go away and clear my head," he said. "I just want to get away."
Center Zaza Pachulia said Woodson deserved credit for the team's progress but eventually became a victim of the increased expectations. "We grew up as a team and as players. He helped a lot of players get better," Pachulia told the AP. "But when you get better, you want even more. I think we're in the stage now where it's not about progress. It's about winning a championship."
Woodson led the Hawks to 37, 47 and 53 wins in his final three seasons and back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they were swept both times. The Hawks won just 13 games in his first season, 2004-05, but improved their record in each of his five seasons after that. He finished with a 206-286 record (.419).
Woodson's 11-18 postseason record, though, is what ultimately cost him his job with the Hawks. He guided the Hawks to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade three seasons ago, when the Hawks pushed the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in a first-round series.
The Hawks continued to improve in each of the next two seasons, snagging top-four seeds in the Eastern Conference playoff chase and the home-court advantage that comes with it.
But they had to win Game 7s both times, against Miami in 2009 and Milwaukee this season, before being swept in the conference semifinals by Cleveland in 2009 and Orlando earlier this week.
Complicating matters for the Hawks is the impending free agency of four-time All-Star and team captain Joe Johnson, who will join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the celebrated summer class of 2010.
Johnson has already stated that he will explore his options this summer, with a potential return to the Hawks being one of them. It was under Woodson that Johnson blossomed from a fourth option in Phoenix and into an All-Star anchor for the Hawks, grabbed Johnson in a sign-and-trade deal in the summer of 2005.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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