Credit Where Credit is Due

Friday, April 29, 2011
By Jon Newberry

After 17 years as an assistant Larry Drew got what he wanted: a head coaching job in the NBA. He also got all of the scrutiny and criticism that comes with being the man in charge.

Things didn’t always go smoothly for Drew during his first season at the helm. He was saddled with lofty expectations from the start, and then he had to deal with a rash of injuries to key players throughout the regular season. The grumblings started after a few blowout losses at home early in the season. They grew in March when it became apparent that the team would not match last season’s win total (53), and it reached a high point when the team dropped its last six games of the regular season.

Fast forward two weeks and I would say it is time to give some praise to the man with the clipboard.

LD put together a somewhat radical game plan that led to a 4-2 series win over the Orlando Magic that not many people outside of the locker room had predicted. He was committed to guarding Dwight Howard with single coverage, instead keeping perimeter defenders focused on defending the 3-point line.

24 minutes into Game 1 Dwight Howard had 31 points. A lot of coaches would have scrapped that “single coverage” plan, and there were a couple plays where it looked like the Hawks players were going to deviate. Drew called timeout and got everyone back on the same page. The result was the most important win of the series. Howard finished with 46 points and 19 rebounds, but the Hawks got a 103-93 win and stole home court advantage.

“He had a plan throughout,” commented Jamal Crawford after the game. “Maybe at times, some people, or even us, didn’t understand it. But there’s a method to his madness.”

Five games later and the Hawks are moving on to Round 2 and the Magic are starting their summer vacations.

It has to be one of the biggest reversals in NBA history. One year after being swept (by a record 101 cumulative points), the Hawks take down the Magic in six games.

It is easy for the fans and media to criticize the coach when things aren’t going well. Let’s take a minute during the three days before the Hawks tip-off their series in Chicago and give a little credit to the man in the middle of the huddle. If coach’s reputations are made in the postseason, so far Larry Drew has a great game plan.

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