The Atlanta Hawks have opted not to re-up with Larry Drew, someone they thought might push them past the excellent mediocrity of the Mike Woodson era. Sadly, Drew achieved just about the same consistently middling results, save for the seemingly annual torrid stretch that forces us to say, “Hey, are the Hawks contenders this year?” just before the sky stops falling and cats and dogs stop living with one another. With Josh Smith gone, almost all relics (save Al Horford) of those old frustrating and occasionally fun Hawks teams will have moved on, and the guys they left behind may be in desperate need of a fresh blueprint. The new sheriff in town who aims to bring that new blueprint is longtime Spurs assistant coach, Mike Budenholzer.
Budenholzer is one of the names (and a very good name at that) that gets mentioned in every coaching search. He is one of the most respected right-hand men in the league and it is somewhat of a surprise that this will be his first head coaching gig at the NBA level. He’s been in San Antonio in some capacity or another since 1995, which is almost twenty years, an undisputed long time in literal years, and even more when you convert it to professional sports years. Whether he instills the vaunted Spurs ethos and dogged resolve into his new team is something to pay attention to. If he can recreate a kind of knockoff Tony Parker-Tim Duncan tandem in Jeff Teague and Al Horford then maybe he can take the Hawks back to the Promise Land of a 7 game-series in the second round!
The other Mike is Mike Malone, and unlike Budenholzer, Malone is still in the courtship phase. At the moment his suitors are concentrated in California, which is fitting, since Malone is Deputy Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors in all but name. The Los Angeles Clippers have put Malone on their shortlist, while the Sacramento Kings appear to be mounting an aggressive push, burn the ships, victory or death, all or nothing campaign for Malone’s services. Mike Malone, like Budenholzer, is one of the Assistants-In-Waiting, who came to the casual fan’s attention a few years ago as the “defensive coordinator” for the New Orleans Hornets (R.I.P.).
Two years ago Malone impressed Warriors owner Joe Lacob so much that he almost got the job. In a move reminiscent of America’s first few elections (the runner-up assumed the role of Vice President, great idea!), Malone joined Mark Jackson’s staff and many have assumed that he is the true x’s and o’s savant while Jackson simply inspires the team with his friendly vibes and unbearable catch-phrases. Of course this is a strange fantasy, but Malone is obviously qualified and he has put in his time. Now it’s his turn to get paid. If he does end up taking the Kings job, he may be at the helm of an unexpected renaissance, inheriting a team chalk full of volatile talent, free finally of the Sword of Re-Location hovering over their heads.