Following Spurs’ blueprint a good thing

sports@macon.comMay 28, 2013 

Why in the world should we be excited about the Atlanta Hawks hiring another assistant coach to be the new man in charge on the sideline? Isn’t this just another chapter in the revolving door of not hiring an established, winning head coach?

No, it’s not. This seems a bit different than what happened when the Hawks brought in Mike Woodson nine years ago and when they simply elevated Woodson’s assistant, Larry Drew, three years ago.

The Hawks’ hiring of Mike Budenholzer is an excellent choice. It’s something we all need to take note of, whether we know the name or not. You probably don’t know his name, but you need to know where Budenholzer has been to appreciate this decision.

Sure, it would have been great to bring in a Stan Van Gundy-type, which would have captured the headlines and brought excitement to a team in desperate need. But more than that, it’s in desperate need of being a consistent winner, with a chance of being a championship team.

Budenholzer joins Danny Ferry, the Atlanta general manager. Both worked with the San Antonio Spurs, the most consistent organization in the NBA during the past 16 years.

Budenholzer was right by head coach Gregg Popovich’s side, including the past five years as his lead assistant. Ferry worked in the front office twice, and in between was the GM with the Cavs. So Ferry spent a lot of time (four years) around the winning atmosphere in San Antonio.

What better franchise to emulate than San Antonio? The Spurs are headed to another NBA Finals next week. They’ve won four NBA titles already in this 16-year span with Popovich and Budenholzer on the sideline. And in the 14 seasons not impacted by a work stoppage, the Spurs have averaged 57 wins per season.

They’re the NBA’s version of the Atlanta Braves, the model baseball franchise from 1991 through 2005. Sure, the Braves won only one championship, but no team came close to the 14-year run with consecutive division titles.

What was the important tie with those 14 division winners? It was John Schuerholz, the general manager, and Bobby Cox, the manager. They were on the same page and had a tremendous working relationship that teams tried to duplicate.

That’s what the Hawks will strive for, and if Ferry and Budenholzer try to simply do what has been done in San Antonio, this will be the best situation for this franchise in years. Now, let’s be honest, it would be great if they had a Tim Duncan-type star, as the Spurs have had, but having the organization at the top is the first important step.

Some will scoff at this hire, since we don’t know much about Budenholzer. But how many of you had to Google Mike Smith’s name when the Falcons hired him five years ago? I know I did. I had no clue who Smith was and what he had accomplished. Look at what he has created with Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta. That relationship, at the top, means a lot. Matt Ryan has helped, but the Dimitroff-Smith duo has led the Falcons to an unprecedented run and has the team in contention for a Super Bowl.

This is where it all starts. The front office and the coach must be on the same page to make things work. After that happens, then they can go find the talent. And with only three guaranteed contracts on the books for next year, Ferry and Budenholzer are going to have that chance. Next year’s team will be their team, and they’ll be able to mold it into a team that can hopefully get over that hump the Hawks have been stuck on for decades.

Will this be a duo that can attract Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, the two top free agents this summer? Well, if Ferry and Budenholzer can convince those two they want to simply follow the blueprint both learned in San Antonio, there won’t be many other teams that will be able to make a pitch like that.

There’s nothing to be ashamed about to say, “Hey, we want to be like the Spurs.” Their success speaks for itself. That’s why Ferry brought in Budenholzer, and that’s a heck of a mantra to make a fan base finally pay attention.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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