Hawks keeping Larry Drew as coach

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks have committed to Larry Drew for one more season.

The team announced Friday it is exercising its option on the coach's contract for next season. Asked if apprehension comes with the contract not being extended beyond the 2012-13 season, Drew said: "What do you think?"

Drew would prefer a longer commitment from the team.

"You know, you can look at it one of two ways," Drew said. "Certainly, is it the perfect situation? No. I've had a lot of dialogue with my representative about the situation and at this point we're just going to move forward."

After advancing to the second round of the playoffs for three straight years, the Hawks were eliminated in the first round by the Celtics.

Drew earned praise from Hawks general manager Rick Sund for leading the team to a 40-26 record despite being without All-Star center Al Horford for all but 11 games of the regular season. Horford returned in Game 4 of the Celtics series.

"Larry did an outstanding job this season in guiding our team to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, despite a condensed schedule and unfortunate injuries," Sund said.

"The Hawks have reached the postseason in each of his years on the bench, and we feel Larry's experience, expertise and dedication to the game were a key ingredient to our success."

The Hawks also lost Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia, Kirk Hinrich and other players for stretches of six or more games. Pachulia missed the Celtics series with a chipped bone in his left foot. Third-string center Jason Collins started the first four games of the series.

Drew acknowledged the Hawks should no longer use excuses for failing to advance deep in the playoffs.

"We can't be satisfied with every year making it to the playoffs," said Drew, who joined the Hawks staff in 2004 as Mike Woodson's top assistant before taking over for Woodson as head coach.

"Once upon a time, that was the feeling, having gone from a team that my first year won 13 games to every year trying to improve to eventually make the playoffs," Drew said. "We're beyond that now. We've got to ask ourselves, with what we have now can we get to the next level?"

The Hawks have an experienced nucleus of Horford, six-time All-Star Johnson and Josh Smith, who is entering the final year of his contract. Marvin Williams, point guard Jeff Teague and backup center Pachulia also are under contract.

The other nine players are free agents.

"We are going to eventually get over the hump," Drew said.

"I do think it is time we take that next step, but to do that we do need some help in here."

Drew said his team at full strength could compete with any team still playing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"The unfortunate part about this thing is the injuries we had to endure, but we should come back certainly a much more confident team," he said. "If you look around, all the teams that are there in the playoffs, with us being healthy, certainly we can compete with any team there at a very high level."

When asked last week to evaluate his season, Drew said he and his staff did a good job of keeping the team playing hard.

"We can only control so much, but the one thing we tried to control is that those guys when they come to that gym, they come out and play hard for you every single night, and I thought we got that," he said.

Drew is 84-64 in two regular seasons and 8-10 in the playoffs. The Hawks were 17-16 on the road this season, the team's first winning record away from Atlanta in 13 years.

Sund's contract expires on June 30.