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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

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Paid his dues: Larry Drew speaks in Atlanta on Monday after being introduced as the new coach of the Hawks. AP PHOTO

After long wait, Drew ready to run own show

ATLANTA (AP) Now that he's finally got his chance to be an NBA head coach, Larry Drew knows that his new job will be a lot easier if he still has Joe Johnson on the team.

Drew wasted no time making his pitch to the free-agent-to-be.

"I think my hiring should be a plus," Drew said Monday, when he was formally introduced as the new coach of the Atlanta Hawks. "I'm a guy who's already been in here, who already knows the players, who already has a feel for the team. The things I'm talking about putting in are going to enhance Joe's game even more."

Johnson has made it clear that he intends to test free agency this summer, and he was the only prominent Atlanta player who didn't show for Drew's first news conference, held on the practice court at Philips Arena.

But Drew, who spent six years as the top assistant to former coach Mike Woodson, said he'll bring more creativity to the offense. The Hawks looked especially stagnant in the second round of the playoffs, when Atlanta was blown out by the Orlando Magic in the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA history.

The 52-year-old Drew is a former point guard who played in the NBA for 10 seasons. He was an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit, Washington and New Jersey before he joined Woodson in Atlanta.

Johnson had a miserable postseason and ticked off the home fans with critical comments about their lack of support during the Orlando series. While he wouldn't close the door on returning to the Hawks, he made it clear he wanted to be part of a glamorous free agent class that is likely to also include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Drew said he had an encouraging telephone conversation with Johnson before getting the head coaching job, but hasn't had a chance to speak with him since the news broke Friday about Atlanta settling on Woodson's successor.

Clearly hoping that Johnson would hear of his plans, Drew said he'll install an offense that relies on more ball movement and doesn't count on the team's best scorer handling the ball so much.

That was the most persistent criticism of Woodson, whose offense relied heavily on isolation sets and one-on-one matchups.

Drew was hired after a search that also included Dwane Casey and Avery Johnson, both of whom had previous head coaching experience.

"Certainly, this is a day I will long remember," said Drew, who was accompanied by his wife — on their 24th wedding anniversary, no less — and the couple's three sons, including North Carolina point guard Larry Drew II. "It has been a very long journey. I just thank God for my patience."

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