Del Harris a Frontrunner But Timing Unknown

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Dallas assistant coach Del Harris is reportedly a frontrunner for the still-vacant head coaching position for the Hawks but the next few days are going to be such busy ones both for Harris and the Hawks that naming him their new leader might be almost unworkable. Between the expansion draft, the real draft, and Harris coaching China's national team in Dallas, there's little time for lunch, let alone a press conference. The other reported frontrunner for the Hawks coaching job is Indiana associate head coach Mike Brown.

Harris is probably the better choice. I've written in this space before on Harris's qualifications -- his defensive prowess, his long experience, his eye for talent, and his ability to coach a variety of players -- but perhaps the most important is that he would lend instant credibility to the team. From Dallas's perspective, it's going to be a long, interesting offseason no matter what happens, and letting Harris go could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Whatever coach does join Atlanta, it will almost be too late for him to provide input on either draft this week or to use his contacts to try to help swing a deal. Nevertheless, if there's one man who can take an essentially random collection of players and mold them into a team, it would have to be Del Harris. He can coach bigs and smalls, up-tempo or half-court, zone defense or man-to-man. He's one of those coaches that are assistants mainly out of choice. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Harris would be an excellent head coach.

Let's just hope the timing doesn't preclude him from being Atlanta's new head coach.

Perhaps Atlanta is regretting letting Terry Stotts go? Had Stotts been an assistant for a winning club last year, he would probably be a frontrunner for the current opening as well. Stotts also did a great job putting together a team that competed every night, even if it's roster changed during the day.


Carlos Frias ofThe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwrites: Dwight Howard is used to basketball fans stopping him on the street. Six feet 10, future first-round pick in the NBA draft, apple of the Atlanta Hawks' eye. The guy draws a crowd. Recently, he is being stopped by a new kind of fan: parents looking for a private school.All they need to see is the effect Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy had on Howard: He's projected to be the first or second pick in Thursday's draft; he carried college-level courses and made known his strong Christian beliefs. "Is this school a great place to send my kids?" Howard says parents ask him. "They saw how my school nurtured me from a young little fella into a young man," he said. "I'm happy that I could help my school grow."

Steve Luhm ofThe Salt Lake Tribunewrites: The Los Angeles Clippers own the No. 2 pick. But because Howard plays the same position as Clipper star Elton Brand, Los Angeles is apparently willing to trade away the chance to get Howard.The expansion Charlotte Bobcats and downtrodden Atlanta Hawks are reportedly working feverishly to make a deal so they can begin building around Howard, who is still six months shy of his 19th birthday.

James Jones ofThe South Mississippi Sun-Heraldwrites: [Al] Jefferson wowed scouts with his impressive workouts and standout performances at the McDonald's All-American game and Jordan's Roundball Classic. That was enough for Jefferson to remain in the draft. But he hasn't signed with an agent and could play at Arkansas next year. Jefferson will decide after next Thursday's draft on his future.The team that drafts Jefferson owns his rights for a year. "I deserve to be a lottery pick,"Jefferson said. "That is hard to turn down. I can get paid for something I love to do. There's always time to go back and get a college education." ESPN Insider's Chad Ford said Jefferson proved himself at the Chicago pre-draft camp as well as workouts with the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and New Orleans Hornets.

Ken Hornack ofThe News-Journal Onlinewrites: The workout will likely be the only one Howard holds for any team before the draft. He said he might meet with officials of both the Los Angeles Clippers, who own the No. 2 pick, and the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, who will pick fourth. There have been reports that Howard will wind up with the Atlanta Hawks, who would trade the sixth and 17th overall picks for the Clippers' first-round selection.Those feelings might have subsided since Howard and his father, who is a Georgia state trooper and the athletics director at the school where his son just graduated, came to town. 

Phil Jasner ofThe Philadelphia Daily Newswrites: The 6-2 West, who is scheduled to work out Monday for the Atlanta Hawks, decided to remain in the draft several hours before Thursday's 5 p.m. deadline, giving up a senior season of college eligibility.

Ken Davis ofThe Hartford Courantwrites: The Atlanta Hawks, who have the No.6 pick, had Gordon, Nelson and Livingston in for workouts the same day. "All of the guys were impressive in different ways," Hawks general manager Billy Knight said.Livingston's stock is so high, he could be taken by Orlando or the Clippers with one of the first two picks. Phoenix hopes Devin Harris is still around at No.7. If the Suns pass on Harris, then look for Toronto to take him at No.8. The Cavaliers wouldn't worry about Nelson's lack of size if he starts next to LeBron James. Portland is watching Telfair. Miami and the Lakers could use help at the point as well. 

Marc J. Spears ofThe Denver Postwrites: Indiana associate head coach Mike Brown and Dallas assistant Del Harris look to be the front-runners for the Atlanta Hawks' head coaching job.Harris is currently coaching China's national team, which includes Houston all-star Yao Ming and former Mavericks draft pick Xue Yuyang. The team is practicing in the Dallas area, where it will play exhibition games.