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STOVALL: Thoughts on Hugh Freeze, Kyrie Irving and the Hawks and a soon-coming school year
Gabriel Stovall copy

You ever have so much to talk about that you didn’t know where to begin? 

Yeah, so that’s kind of where this week’s Sound Off is headed. So many things to discuss, so little space to discuss them. From SEC football coaching drama to the start of another school year which means the start of another season of high-level high school athletics, even down to more commentary on those beloved Atlanta Hawks. 

So let’s get started, first with that bunch that occupies Philips Arena. 

You know, I’m definitely nobody’s general manager. I don’t even play a GM on television. But I will attempt to be one in the newspaper today. 

On Friday, the news broke that Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. He doesn’t want to play next to franchise face, LeBron James anymore. Chances are it has nothing to do with any rift between the two superstars as much as it has to do with Irving wanting his own shot at being his own big dog on his own team. 

Not surprising, considering Cleveland basically brought him on for that very purpose — two weeks before LeBron showed up. That relegated Irving to sidekick status — a role he played dutifully, but one he apparently is tired of. 

Irving listed four teams, San Antonio, Minnesota, the New York Knicks (God knows why) and the Miami Heat as options. If I were the Atlanta Hawks’ brass, I’d do whatever I possibly could to make my team option number five. 

Look, contrary to how some would try to spin this, the Hawks are in full tank mode. Have been since they unloaded the 60-win team three seasons ago. They’re building through the draft, through key free agency, through unloading cap space. Great. But what does that mean without a star? 

The Hawks need a major personality. A closer. A player who is the undisputed face of the franchise that you can build around. And guess what? The 25 year-old Kyrie Irving wants a place where he can, “The Man.” 

Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? So why isn’t a team like Atlanta on Kyrie’s list? Well, probably for the same reason why no other start looking to trade or test the waters of free agency is. The Hawks don’t like positioning themselves to make splash deals. 

Before, cap space could have been the blame. But now, when your team’s best player is Dennis Schroder, it’s the time to position yourself to be a winner. Look, maybe the Hawks make the playoffs this year. With the way the East is set up, they could probably do it with 35 wins. That’s not saying much. But if Atlanta is serious about creating a winner, here’s a chance. 

Throw it all at Irving, Hawks! Let him know you want to be a winner and you want to build it all around him. You have nothing to lose anyway. You’ve already lost it all, as far as roster talent goes. Take a chance. The worst he could do is say, “no.” But that would mean that the question was asked, at least. 

That’s progress. 

Out in the world of SEC football, Ole Miss made news once again. When I saw on Twitter that Hugh Freeze was out as the Rebels’ head coach, I skimmed by it and surmised that it was probably recruiting stuff and/or the Houston Nutt vendetta finally catching up to him. 

When I took another look, I did a double take. Escort service? Wow. Look, I’m not here to bash the man, but what Freeze did was remind us once again that your big sports platforms aren’t enough to permit you to do whatever you’d like. 

Some say Freeze’s issues were “no harm, no foul,” because it was on his own private and personal time and it didn’t hurt anyone tied to the program. 

But it did. Although 18 to 22 year old young men probably laugh it off, I bet you their parents were not. And coaches, for better or for worse, are seen as extensions of parental guidance to the kids they recruit. If you as a parent can’t trust that the coach you’re turning your kid over to for four or five years is going to present himself as a good role model, what reason do you have left to send your kid to that school? 

I believe Freeze will be fine, eventually. He’ll land on his feet from a coaching perspective. I mean, if Bobby Petrino pushed past his sins to land another big time job, anyone can. But I can’t help but wonder if the pressure of being an SEC football coach at a school where the NCAA, and Nutt, are constantly breathing down your neck got to him. 

Even if he did, coaches — and players — on those platforms have to be able to prove that they can make better decisions for their own sake and that of all whom they represent. 

Finally, as I write this column, we are 20-something days away from the kickoff of the 2017 football season. And we’re even closer to the official beginning of the 2017-18 school year and fall sports season. 

I believe volleyball and softball games commence as early as the first week in August, which is less than two weeks away. Where did the summer go? I have a feeling that this is going to be a tremendous school year from an athletic standpoint, for our Newton County student-athletes. 

Please make sure you send me any ideas you for coverage, or any athletes, teams or sports you’d like to see get more shine this school year. I’d love to hear from you! 


Gabriel Stovall is the sports editor of The Covington News. You can contact him for story ideas and tips at If you're on Twitter, follow him @GabrielStovall1, or follow our sports Twitter page, @CovNewsSports.