Former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson will be town Thursday for his second interview, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Woodson is expected to meet with Platinum Equity partners Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment, who were introduced with new owner Tom Gores at a news conference this month.
It is believed that the new coach also would have to meet with Gores before the hiring is official.
If you recall, Woodson interviewed with Joe Dumars and Pistons VP Scott Perry on June 20 -- he left town telling the Free Press it was an "excellent meeting." The feeling must have been mutual, because 10 days later he's back to meet with Dumars and Perry's bosses. But while the callback cements the notion that Woodson is a front-runner, it doesn't preclude the team from looking elsewhere. From Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:
A source with knowledge of the situation told The Detroit News that although Woodson is receiving a second interview, the Pistons are still committed to talking to candidates beyond the five they've already interviewed.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall during this interview, because I'd love to hear how Woodson sells himself. Does he consider himself a defensive coach? Because under his reign, the Hawks ranged from awful to mediocre on defense, never posting a defensive rating better than 12th in the league. They never gave up many points, but that's a superficial stat given Atlanta's traditionally slow pace.
Over at Peachtree Hoops, SBN's Hawks blog, Kris Willis recently discussed Woodson's inability to give the Hawks a defensive identity:
When Woodson arrived in Atlanta, he was supposed to bring a defensive attitude and mind set to the Hawks. He never quite accomplished that as his Hawks clubs were in the middle of the pack defensively during most of his tenure. Woodson looked to mask a lot of Atlanta's perimeter defensive issues by switching nearly every screen and hoping that his athletic squad could survive the defensive mismatches. Larry Drew took a little different approach to the Hawks as they played more straight up in their defensive assignments and concentrated more on the offensive end of the floor where the team had become stagnant under Woodson.
After going 53-29 in 2009-10 under Woodson, the Hawks slipped to 43-38 without him. Funny enough, the Hawks finished 13th in the league in terms of defensive rating both years -- it was on offense that the Hawks were demonstrably worse under Drew. In 2009-10, Atlanta posted a 111.9 ORating, second-best in the league; this past season, the Hawks posted a 106.1 ORating, ranking 20th. The Hawks were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs both years, although they were a bit more competitive this past season.
Was Dumars initially drawn to Woodson because Woodson won a ring with the Pistons as a member of Larry Brown's staff in 2004? I'd be shocked if that didn't factor into the equation, even if Woodson's track record of year over year improvement with the Hawks played a larger factor.
But Wentworth and Norment won't have any sentimental attachment (hell, they were still Celtics fans in 2004), and considering how far removed they are from the NBA's good ol' boys club of execs, coaches and former players, they'll likely consider Woodson strictly on merit and not reputation. This should be a good thing, although layers upon layers of management having a hand in this decision (does Dave Checketts get a vote?) makes me a little nervous -- decisions by committee usually result in the lowest common denominator.
You know the saying, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM?" That's how I feel about Woodson. His track record is long enough to prevent anybody in the front office from being held accountable (whether by the media or Gores) if he doesn't work out. But that doesn't make him the "best" choice, just the conventional one. If he ends up getting the job, here's to hoping it's because everyone actually wanted him, not just because he's the only candidate everyone in the room could agree on.
(That said, I fully expect the lockout to delay any hire -- there's no real reason to start paying a coach when he's not even allowed to have contact with players. But that doesn't mean we can't debate this to death right now!)