Despite delay, Drew remains candidate to retain Hawks job

The Atlanta Hawks are now in the second week of their coaching search and little in terms of official communication has come from the team.

Larry Drew, the Hawks’ coach for the past three seasons, has an expiring contract and general manager Danny Ferry is in the process of identifying other candidates.

Over the weekend, the Hawks did release a statement to several media outlets in response to a Yahoo! Sports report that the Hawks were “aggressively” pursuing former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that that story was “inaccurate.”)

“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry said in the statement of Drew, who led the Hawks to the playoffs in each season he coached the team. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”

As the statement indicates, Ferry has given Drew the freedom to talk to other teams that have vacant head coaching positions, just as he is reaching out to others. Van Gundy reportedly remains a wildcard, as it is unknown whether he wants to coach at all next season.

Other candidates are said to be former University of Missouri coach Quin Snyder, a former teammate of Ferry’s at Duke, and San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer, who is in his 16th season as an assistant with the Spurs and his fifth as Gregg Popovich’s top assistant. Ferry came to the Hawks from San Antonio and worked with the organization in two different stints.

While Van Gundy and Snyder, who currently is an assistant in Russia’s professional league, would appear to be available now, the Spurs are tied 2-2 with Golden State in the second round of the playoffs. If Budenholzer indeed emerges as Ferry’s top target, the process could drag out for a while – or, potentially, as long as the Spurs remain in the playoffs, which could last several more weeks. According to NBA spokesman Tim Frank, whether a team that remains still alive in the playoffs allows an assistant to interview for a head coaching vacancy before it is eliminated is up to that team.

It is not known whether the Hawks have asked for permission to interview Budenholzer.

The tricky part of trying to decipher all of this is Drew’s status. If Drew were no longer receiving consideration, the Hawks could have parted ways with him already. The fact that they have not means that to some degree, no matter how small it could be, he remains an option.

Drew’s candidacy is starting to take on the aura of that of a last resort, though. It would seem that if Ferry is certain he can hire one of his top preferences, the Hawks will formally part with Drew.

However, Drew could remain a viable option if others turn down the Hawks.

That is not always such a bad thing. One memorable example from the pro sports world was that of the Chicago Bears in 2004. They reportedly offered their vacant job to several candidates, including Nick Saban (who later had an unsuccessful tenure with Miami), before Lovie Smith accepted. Smith coached the team for nine years and took the Bears to the Super Bowl, losing to Indianapolis in 2007.

No matter who the Hawks’ next head coach is – and this includes Drew – he will have a multi-year contract and a mandate to be the Hawks’ coach of the present and future.

That is something that Drew did not have during the 2012-13 season.