The organization built its entire advertising campaign around Kruger's plan. When someone called the Hawks' offices, they received this response: “Thank you for calling the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks.”
Kruger felt the campaign might unify players.
“It would let them know we expect to do this,” Kruger said. “Let's act like we're going to get there.”
Former Oklahoma star Gar Heard was an assistant on Kruger's staff.
“He was trying to motivate the guys, but in the NBA that doesn't work,” Heard said. “In the NBA, their motivation is playing time.”
Kruger was fired Dec. 26 after the Hawks started the season with an 11-16 record. Terry Stotts, another former OU star, was named interim coach.
The Hawks finished that season 35-47.
And by failing to deliver on the promise of making the playoffs, the Hawks lost approximately $500,000.