by Tzvi Twersky
As Game 3 neared conclusion, you could see the disappointment and tension on coach Mike Woodson’s face. After losing by 30 in the game to Orlando, Woodson’s Hawks find themselves down three to zero in a best of seven series. The huge loss, plus the need to win four straight, were certainly the cause for much of Woodson’s concern. They weren’t responsible for all of it, though.
Woodson’s contract is up for renewal in June, and according to most, the coach very well may not be brought back if the Magic sweep his Hawks.
Before Game 3, before the demoralizing defeat, Woodson told Chris Sheridan that he’s indeed in a tough spot:
“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Woodson said Saturday prior to Game 3 of the Hawks-Magic series.
Woodson’s situation is similar to that of Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who most recently said he was 90 percent sure he’d be back coaching the Lakers next season after his current contract expires. In Jackson’s case, ownership’s desire to have him take a pay cut will be a contributing factor as to whether he returns.
In Woodson’s case, it’ll be a question of whether the Hawks ownership group will even want him back.
Woodson was in a similar situation two years ago, but he solidified his job status by extending the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics to a seventh game in their first-round series.
“Well, it’s nothing new,” he said. “I’ve been there before, a few years ago. It’s what it is, I’m under contract until the end of June and I’ve still got work to do.”
Under Woodson’s leadership, the Hawks have improved every season, going from 13 wins in 2004-05 to 26 the following season, then 30, 37, 47 and 53 victories. Last season was the first time since 1999 that Atlanta made it to the second round, but they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.