It might be Larry Drew, their coach the last three seasons. It might be someone else, since general manager Danny Ferry inherited Drew from the previous regime and made it clear he’s looking at other options.
At the moment, Drew remains in limbo. His contract expires at the end of June.
Ferry has repeatedly praised the job Drew did while leading a team that had numerous players with expiring contracts. Despite the uncertainty, the Hawks made their sixth straight playoff appearance, though they were knocked out in the first round by the Indiana Pacers.
That said, Ferry wants to make sure he’s got the right guy on the sideline with massive roster changes looming this summer.
“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry said in a statement. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all our options, and talk with other potential head coaches, before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team.”
The 55-year-old Drew was an assistant coach who moved up to take his first coaching job when Mike Woodson was fired in 2010.
Drew has a 128-102 record and three straight playoff appearances, including a first-round upset of Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic his debut season. The Hawks were beaten in the first round the last two years, though this season just making the playoffs was considered a bit of a surprise after Ferry traded top scorer Joe Johnson as well as former first-round pick Marvin Williams, largely to dump two hefty salaries and acquire a bunch of players heading into the final year of their contracts.
Atlanta got off a surprising start before sliding to the sixth seed after season-ending injuries to a pair of key backups, Lou Williams and Zaza Pachulia. The Hawks were beaten by the Pacers in six games and have only three players definitely under contract for next season.
Drew could not be reached for comment Monday but made it clear the day after the season ended that he didn’t want his status to drag on for long.
“Nobody wants things to kind of linger,” he said. “I love what I’m doing, I enjoy what I’m doing. This is what I do. Certainly, if it did not work out here, I would like to know so I can look elsewhere.”
Like the team, Drew has been exploring his options, feeling out other teams that are in the market for a coach. There are five openings at the moment, and could be more. Already, there have been reports Drew would be interested in talking with the Philadelphia 76ers if he doesn’t stay with the Hawks.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear what direction the Hawks are considering. Ferry could pursue an experienced coach such as Stan Van Gundy, though it’s not clear if the former Magic chief is interested in getting back in the game next season. Or the GM could pursue one of several assistants who are thought to be hot coaching candidates.
Or, of course, he could stay with Drew — thought to be the least likely option, especially for a team heading in such a radically different direction.
“Larry and I have had open communication about this,” Ferry said. “If Larry and I continue our work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”
In his last public comments on his situation, Drew sounded like someone who didn’t expect to return to Atlanta.
“Whether I’m back here or not, I don’t know. But I’ve had a great run here,” he said. “I gave it my all. I can honestly look in the mirror and say the three years I’ve been here as a head coach and my work here as an assistant, I put my all into it.”
Clearly, he’s not ready to give up on being a head coach after waiting so long for his chance.
“This is a very good gig,” Drew said. “The pressure comes with it — the highs, the lows, the emotional roller coaster — all of that comes with it. But I enjoy what I do, and I would love to continue doing what I’m doing.”
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963