Lloyd Pierce Fired as Hawks HC After Atlanta's 14-20 Start

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2021

Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce instructs his team during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks are just 4-11 since their impressive 10-9 start to the 2020-21 campaign and are making a major change as they look to get things back on track and compete for a playoff spot. 

On Monday, the Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce. The 44-year-old was the head coach in Atlanta since the start of the 2018-19 campaign but was just 63-120 in two-plus seasons.

"We would like to thank Lloyd for his work and commitment to not only the Hawks organization but the city of Atlanta," Hawks president of basketball operations and general manager Travis Schlenk said in the announcement. "He and his wife, Melissa, are tremendous people who have made a positive impact throughout the city. We have high expectations for our team on the court and we believe by making this change now that we can have a strong second half of the season."

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic spoke to one Hawks player who said he found out about Pierce's exit from social media and that there "was no heads up." Pierce coached the team through practice Monday, per Kirschner.

Prior to his time as the head coach of the Hawks, Pierce was an assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers and in player development for the Memphis Grizzlies.

He was an assistant in Philadelphia from 2014-15 through 2017-18 and helped coach players during a rebuild affectionately known as The Process. 

Wojnarowski and Marc Spears reported when Pierce was hired in Atlanta that Schlenk and members of the Hawks' front office were impressed with his player development with the 76ers during a rebuild as their franchise moved toward one as well.

Yet the Hawks went from 29-53 (.354) in Pierce's first season to 20-47 (.299) in his second. They appeared to turn the corner at the start of the 2020-21 campaign but have since struggled even in an Eastern Conference that is not exactly loaded with top-notch contenders with just four teams above .500.

There is still enough talent in place with Trae Young, John Collins and Clint Capela to make a run at the playoffs this season, especially with the expanded play-in tournament. The question is who will take over in the interim role, and Wojnarowski reported the front office hopes that current Atlanta assistant Nate McMillan will do so even though he is "fiercely loyal in his support of Pierce."

McMillan has extensive experience as a head coach from his time with the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.