Mike Woodson Interview
Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson spoke with InsideHoops.com and other major media outlets in a teleconference. Here are the questions and answers:
Q: What are your thoughts about your old team, the Detroit Pistons, and their chances this year?
Woodson: With the additions of (Antonio) McDyess and (Carlos) Delfino and the rookie that they drafted last year (Darko Milicic), I think they have a shot at repeating. They are definitely one of the stronger teams in the East and they know what it takes to probably get back there. A lot is going to have to do with them staying healthy and the new guys gelling with the guys that are returning.
Q: Since the Pistons were such a success last year, what facets of the Pistons blueprint do you hope to use when building your new team?
Woodson: I think we have to take it a step at a time. With the additions of Antoine Walker and Al Harrington, that is a major plus for our franchise as far as going in the right direction. But we got to add some other pieces with those two guys to even begin to get to level where that Detroit team was. I like my team. I like the additions of Kenny Anderson, Jon Barry and Kevin Willis; three solid veteran guys that have been around and played for teams that have been to the playoffs. So they do have some playoff experience. I do have quite a few young guys that we have to develop and teach what itís like to be in the NBA on and off the floor, and that may take some time. But itís not going to be overnight, and I donít think that the Detroit team was something that happened over night. It was a process that they went through the last three or four years and finally got to the point where they were able to get over the hump and it might take us a year or two to get to that point.
Q: What do you think teams will try to do after looking at what the Pistons did to be so successful?
Woodson: I think the fact that we did it through a total team effort. We didnít have a big time superstar. Rasheed Wallace is a big name, but I thought we won a title with 12 guys that just played together on both ends of the floor, particularly the defensive end. And I think teams are going to start looking in that light in terms of trying to build a team. And Iím certainly trying to do that in Atlanta. I really donít need superstars; I just need 12 guys on the same page that are all striving for the same thing. In doing that hopefully youíll win your share of games and get in the playoffs. And once you get there anything is possible.
Q: What do you need from Al Harrington and Antoine Walker each night in order for this team to be successful?
Woodson: Well, they canít take any nights off. Thatís a conversation Iíve had with them after bringing them to Atlanta, that they have to be consistent every night. And that consistency has to filter down among everyone else that plays around them. We still have to add some pieces. Weíre not completely there in terms of the kind of team that we want to field and it will probably take another year or two to do that. But the beautiful thing about our franchise is that we do have cap space and money to spend to go after solid players to help those two individuals out.
Q: Do you feel that Josh Childress could end up being a major piece?
Woodson: Iím taking a strong look at Josh as we speak. Heís been starting for us at the two spot in the first two exhibition games and itís been a struggle a little bit for him because it is a learning process. I expected that and I just have to help him in some areas in terms of making the game a little more comfortable to him and eventually I think heíll fit right in. Heís definitely a very bright player with a lot of talent and heís just going through the rookie blues in terms of trying to learn what this league is all about.
Q: Do you think that coaches who spend time as assistants in the NBA before becoming a head coach are better prepared than coaches who come from college, and if so, why?
Woodson: Surely coaches who coach at this level, if they do it over a period of time, begin to grow and learn our league. And college coaches coach college. Itís like asking me if I went to the college level, would I be successful there. I donít know that. I do know Iím a coach. I like to teach. College guys have struggled coming in to our level to coach and I think a lot of it is that theyíre not familiar with our game. Itís not that theyíre not good coaches. I think the guys that do come in are great coaches, but it is a learning process that goes along with our league to get adjusted to the players and what theyíre thinking. It goes both ways. Fortunately this is my ninth season at this level and I finally got the opportunity to coach my own team and Iím very excited about it.
Q: What do you think Mike Montgomeryís greatest challenge will be this year?
Woodson: Just trying to get 12 guys to be on the same page. Thatís no different than college. And also learning our game. Heís put guys around him, his assistants, who have been in this league a few years and have experience that can help him in that regard. A lot of it is dealing with the day-to-day player on and off the field and continuing to teach. He still has to be himself. If heís a teacher and believes in what he teaches then thatís what he has to get across to his players.
Q: With the veteran players and the young players that were drafted, along with Antoine Walker in a contract year and Al Harrington with a year or two left on his contract, is this a situation where you have to balance a lot of different things each day and is there a lot of communication between you and Billy Knight about how to go about things?
Woodson: Billy and I are on the same page each and every day in terms of what we are trying to get across. Having Al here, and I know he has two or three years left on his deal and Antoine who will be a free agent after this year, Iím selling these guys on the fact that this is not a short term process and that weíre not looking at these guys that we brought in on a short term lease. Antoine and Al Harrington are two valuable pieces that you can build around over the next five or six years. We do have four young guys that we brought in through the draft that have to learn our league and learn what itís all about on and off the court. But again, the beauty of or team is the fact that we do have cap space, that we do have money to spend. The next two or three years there will be some quality free agents out there that we can perhaps bring in to build around Antoine and Al Harrington because thatís important. I donít want to continue to fight this. I think weíve added two nice pieces and we have to continue to add pieces in order to get where this franchise needs to be.