Mike Woodson on what works

SLAM's Lang Whitaker spent 36 hours embedded with the Atlanta Hawks, during which time they picked up a nice road win over the Mavericks. It's a fun, occasionally PG-13 for language, read.

In a hotel ballroom, the morning after a game and a flight, Woodson addressed the team as Whitaker scribbled notes. Woodson said:

This team has a chance to do something special if you believe in each other. If you feel like what we’re trying to do on the court isn’t going to work, speak up! I have zero ego as a coach, none. If you think you see something that’s going to work better than what we’re trying to do, speak up! Say something to me! But what I’m telling you guys is that if you guys will just consistently do what we’re asking you to do on defense, we’ll win games. I don’t give a s--- about the offense; you guys can score more than enough points to win games. The offense isn’t the problem. But you have to get stops on defense, and if you’ll listen to what we’re telling you, I promise you’ll get stops. The s--- works, okay? The s--- works, but you guys just have to have the pride and the heart to buy into it and do what we’re asking you to do every time down the court. ...

Guys, I’ve been in this League as a coach and a player for 28 years. I won one title with Detroit a few years ago, but I’d like to win some more, and I know all of you guys would, too. Look, your clock is ticking. My clock is ticking. We’re not going to be around this League forever. This team is possibly good enough to win a title. You guys who weren’t here before this year, I’ve never been able to say that before this season. But you guys could do something really special. You just have to trust each other and do what you’re supposed to do out there on the floor. The s--- works, you just have to execute and trust.

Apparently the Hawks got the message. Later that night, in the locker room after the win, this was the conversation:

“Guys, great win,” Woodson rasped. “Remember what I said? You can win playing defense! We struggled with the offense but your defense was terrific.”

“The s--- works!” blurted out [rookie Jeff] Teague, cracking up the entire room.

“That’s right, it does, it works,” Woodson said, smiling. “Alright guys, let’s get home. You’ve got tomorrow off, and then we’ll come back in on Monday and get back to work. No more let ups, guys!”

“No excuses!” yelled [Al] Horford.

“No sir, no excuses, guys,” Woodson said. “Oh, and guys, today is Josh Smith’s birthday. Jeff Teague, get up here and sing Happy Birthday, rook.”