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Hawks keeping Drew as coach for 2012-13 season

ATLANTA -- Larry Drew is returning for his third season as the Atlanta Hawks' coach despite the team's first-round exit from the playoffs.

The Hawks announced Friday the team is exercising its option on Drew's contract for next season.

"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," said general manager Rick Sund.

"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."

Drew led the Hawks to a 40-26 regular-season record before the team lost to the Boston Celtics in six games in the first round of the playoffs. It was a step back for the franchise after three straight second-round appearances.

Atlanta had the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference despite losing All-Star center Al Horford for all but 11 games of the regular season. Horford returned in Game 4 of the Celtics series.

The Hawks also lost Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia, Kirk Hinrich and other players for stretches of six or more games.

"This group, we never really got to show what we're capable of," Horford said last week.

Pachulia, who was Horford's top backup, 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 said he and his staff "endured a lot of unexpected things."

"Obviously when you lose an All-Star at the beginning of the season, you have to make some adjustments and you've got to kind of change your way of thinking of how you deal with the team now," Drew said last week. "Certainly when you have factored a guy in for the entire season and then he won't be there, you've got to change some things around, particularly the mindset of the rest of the team."

Drew said he did a good job of keeping the team playing hard.

"It's something I take a lot of pride in and spend a lot of time on," he said. "Player relationships are very important and how you deal with it, how you deal with your best player all the way down to the guy who may not dress out during games.

"I thought I did a good job with that. I thought my staff did a good job with that. 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."

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.

The team's five starters and Pachulia are under contract for next season. Nine players are free agents, and Sund's contract expires on June 30.