By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer
Mike Woodson is out as coach of the Atlanta Hawks after the team was swept in the second round of the playoffs by the Orlando Magic.
General manager Rick Sund said Friday the team will not offer Woodson a new contract. He coached the Hawks for six seasons, and they improved their record every year after managing just 13 wins in his debut.
Atlanta won 53 games this season, the most since 1996-97, and captured the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. But that wasn’t enough to save Woodson’s job.
Sund held a morning meeting with Woodson to inform him of the team’s decision.
“After careful consideration, we have made a difficult decision regarding coach Woodson’s contractual status,” Sund said in a statement. “We’re grateful for Mike’s contributions over the last six years and we want to wish him the very best.”
Woodson declined to comment on his ouster when reached by The Associated Press.
“I’m just going to take some time and go away and clear my head,” he said. “I just want to get away.”
The firing of Woodson was the first move in a busy offseason for the Hawks. In addition to hiring a new coach, the team must deal with the possible loss of its best player, Joe Johnson, who will become a free agent this summer.
A four-time All-Star, Johnson didn’t sound enthusiastic about returning to Atlanta after a dismal series against the Magic and a run-in with the fans over a 30-point home loss in Game 3.
If Johnson returns, the next coach of the Hawks will inherit plenty of talent. Two players (Johnson and Al Horford) were selected for the All-Star Game, Josh Smith is one of the league’s best defensive players and Jamal Crawford won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award.
Woodson felt he deserved a chance to return after the Hawks became just the seventh team in NBA history to win more games than the previous season for five straight years.
But it was clear that some players had tuned him out, especially in the playoffs. Atlanta struggled to beat a short-handed Milwaukee team in the opening round, rallying from a 3-2 deficit to win in seven games. Then came a total rout in the conference semifinals.
Orlando won the opening game by 43 points, then handed the Hawks the franchise’s worst home playoff loss in Game 3, a 105-75 blowout. The Magic won the four games by a total of 101 points, the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA history.
Still, Woodson felt the team was making progress.
“I would love to stay here in Atlanta because you don’t start something and go through hell for six years and not want to finish it,” he said Tuesday after meeting with his players for what turned out to be the last time. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done here as a staff.”
AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.