By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
Posted Jun 12 2010 5:14PM
Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew will succeed his former boss, Mike Woodson, as the team's next head coach, a source informed NBA.com Friday evening.
Drew served the past six years as Woodson's top assistant and emerged from a final group of candidates that included recently hired Nets coach Avery Johnson, Dallas assistant Dwane Casey and ABC broadcaster Mark Jackson.
The details of Drew's deal are still being worked out, according to that source, but Drew was summoned to the Hawks' downtown Atlanta headquarters late Friday afternoon to meet with general manager Rick Sund, where the formal offer was made.
Woodson had guided the team to an improved record each of the last five seasons, as well as three straight playoff appearances after a nearly decade-long postseason drought. But the Hawks were blown out in the second round by the Orlando Magic, who won four straight by an average of 25.3 points for the most lopsided sweep in NBA history.
The front office felt new leadership was needed on the bench after the Hawks' season ended for the second year in a row with a second-round sweep. They decided on someone who was familiar to the players by sticking with Drew.
An assistant coach the past 16 years, the 52-year-old Drew also played 10 NBA seasons, including stints with the Detroit Pistons, Kansas City and Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Drew takes over a Hawks team that won 53 games this past season, the fifth-best mark in franchise history.
The team held talks with Casey, who coached the Timberwolves for 1 1/2 seasons before he was fired in 2007. The decision fell into place quickly after another person thought to be on the Hawks' wish list, ex-Dallas coach Avery Johnson, reached an agreement with the New Jersey Nets.
The official announcement of the Hawks' new coach is expected be made early next week.
The Hawks went 13-69 in Woodson's first season, but they steadily improved through free-agent signings (Joe Johnson), the draft (Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams) and trades (Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford).
This past season, the Hawks finished 53-29 -- their most wins since 1996-97 -- and claimed the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. But they were no match for the Magic in the playoffs, and Sund decided to head in a different direction.
"Woody has been here six years and had basically been the only voice that many of these players had heard," the GM said at the time. "The shelf life for coaches and management in the NBA is short, particularly for coaches, maybe two or three years. In Woody's case, he has gone six. The compelling thought for me was maybe it's right for a change."
Sund believes a new coach might be able to take the Hawks to even higher levels, though he acknowledged it was a risk to dump someone coming off a playoff appearance.
"Sometimes in professional sports, change is good -- not only for the individual, but for the organization," he said. "Hey, it was a tough decision any way you go. If it doesn't turn out, it's the wrong decision. If it turns out, maybe it was the right decision, I don't know."
The hiring of Drew will surely be popular with the players, and the Hawks may be hoping that keeping a familiar face on the sideline will help them re-sign Joe Johnson and smooth the transition for the rest of the roster.
Johnson is set to become a free agent this summer, part of a star-studded class that likely will include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Hawks have indicated they want to bring Johnson back, but a poor showing in the playoffs might make them reluctant to offer the maximum deal it likely will take to keep the four-time All-Star. Johnson didn't sound enthusiastic about coming back, either, after a run-in with the fans over a 30-point home loss in Game 3 against the Magic.
Johnson said he didn't care if the fans showed up at all for Game 4. They responded by booing him repeatedly during the season-ending loss.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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