Hawks Fire Lloyd Pierce

The Hawks have dismissed head coach Lloyd Pierce, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). The club has put out a press release officially confirming the decision to relieve Pierce of his duties.

“We would like to thank Lloyd for his work and commitment to not only the Hawks organization but the city of Atlanta. He and his wife, Melissa, are tremendous people who have made a positive impact throughout the city,” general manager Travis Schlenk said in a statement. “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.”

Pierce, who previously served as an assistant coach in Cleveland, Golden State, Memphis, and Philadelphia, was hired as the Hawks’ head coach by Schlenk in 2018. Pierce led the team to a 63-120 (.344) record in two-and-a-half seasons, with no playoff appearances.

The Hawks’ sub-.500 records in Pierce’s first couple seasons were to be expected, since the organization was still in rebuilding mode. However, there were increased expectations in Atlanta in 2020/21 — the club badly wants to make the postseason this spring following a major spending spree in free agency. The Hawks are just 14-20 after getting off to a 10-9 start, and have coughed up a number of fourth-quarter leads.

It’s worth noting that Atlanta has been hit hard so far in ’20/21 by the injury bug, with all of the team’s major free agent additions – Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn – missing at least a dozen games due to health issues. Dunn has yet to suit up at all for his new team, while up-and-coming youngster De’Andre Hunter has been out since January. However, it seems the Hawks’ decision-makers weren’t willing to attribute the club’s inconsistent and underwhelming play in the first half to those absences.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the Hawks are hoping that lead assistant Nate McMillan will take over as their interim head coach.

McMillan is certainly the most logical candidate to assume the reins on an interim basis — his résumé includes lengthy head coaching stints for the Pacers, Trail Blazers, and SuperSonics, and he ranks 22nd on the NBA’s all-time list with 661 wins as a head coach. However, McMillan – who is meeting with Pierce and the rest of Atlanta’s coaching staff this afternoon – has been “fiercely loyal in his support of Pierce,” Woj notes.

[UPDATE: Nate McMillan Agrees To Be Hawks’ Interim Head Coach]

Pierce, who is set to be part of Gregg Popovich‘s Team USA coaching staff at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, is the second NBA head coach to be dismissed during the 2020/21 season, joining former Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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73 thoughts on “Hawks Fire Lloyd Pierce

  1. Black Ace57

    I think this is the right move. This was the year they were supposed to compete for a playoff spot and signed all those players and the team didn’t step up. I don’t buy the injury excuse because with injuries and players out with the COVID protocols most of the teams in the league have had players missing games.

    • Al Hirschen

      Why do black coaches have such a short leash when white coaches always get a long extended stay

        • Al Hirschen

          Kristian Winfield
          Another Black head coach canned early while other underperforming White head coaches are given leashes that stretch around the world and back.

          • bigpapi136

            The article has Jason Kidd as a black coach I believe his father was black. He was about .500 for 4 years. Sure Giannis/Middleton Weren’t very good the first two years. Wouldn’t you consider that a leash?

            • Right, but Walton was terrible and overwhelmed, then slid right into another cushy coaching gig in Sacramento where he’s continued his lack of success. Contrast that to a guy like Mark Jackson who improved every year (23 wins, then 47, then 51) who got fired and can’t buy a job.

              • mcmillankmm

                Mark Jackson doesn’t want a coaching job, he’s got a cushy ESPN job….Walton won’t last in Sacramento, while it is an NBA job I wouldn’t say cushy compared to the rest of the NBA

                • @mcmillankmm: Someone should tell Mark Jackson that then. He has explicitly stated that he would like to coach again on a number of occasions. He actually called returning to coaching ‘a dream of mine’ less than a year ago (May 2020; google it).

              • amk1920

                Mark Jackson hasn’t coached in 7 years. He clearly doesn’t want to. Walton will be lucky if he is not fired by the Kings at the end of this season. Besides the Warriors won as soon as he was fried. He isn’t that great of a coach either.

        • @brian214: no one is saying the ‘race card’ is the sole reason for this. But in a league where 75-80% of the players are black and there are only something like 8 non-white coaches out of 30 teams, it at least deserves a conversation.

        • Northern Expansion 416

          @ Brian214 See someone like you would get offended because you were raised to believe you are superior to every other race. Black people in any top position… wether it be, judge, businessman, actor or athlete. Just the fact that folks of other ethnic groups are doing better than you is what gets your blood boiling isn’t it??? That sounds like a you problem!

      • Twinsfan333

        @Al Ryan Saunders fired after 137 games. Pierce was fired after 183 games. So black coaches get a longer leash. Take your racist takes someplace else. No one is listening

        • @Twinsfan333: providing one example does not negate the idea. I mean, I could easily point back to Luke Walton.

          Also, it is worth noting how much of a lather you’ve worked yourself into at the mere notion of race playing a factor in NBA coaching hirings/firings. I’ll say it again: 75-80% of the players are black, 8 of the coaches are non-white (27%).

          • Twinsfan333

            John Beilein got 54 games, Jim Boylen got 123 games, Igor Kokoskov got 82 games, David Blatt got 123 games. All less than pierce. We can go on and on. By your logic we can never have a female HC or Asian or any other race since they aren’t reflected in the demographic of the league. We can never have a black NHL coach either with your logic. Take your anecdotal racism and get a life or at least a clue.

      • reflect

        They literally replaced him with a different black guy. There are so many real struggles black people deal with in America but this ain’t one of them.

      • wagner13

        Maybe there is some systemic racism involved, but I do not believe that to be the case in this particular instance.

        While I would have at least given Pierce the rest of the season, I can see the rationale behind the decision. The Hawks had not shown a ton of progression given the personnel improvement and I’m not sure I would consider Pierce even a top 25 head coach in this league.

        As for the leash argument, I wouldn’t say that’s particularly true of late. After all, the same thing happened to Kenny Atkinson last year in nearly identical circumstances. I have to think at this point that most NBA franchises are more focused on winning than the color of their franchise leader’s skin.

        I don’t understand why Walton is still hired, however. I suppose that can be chalked up to the King’s historic organizational incompetence

  2. arthur blank_for owner

    Dang i really like Pierce too, seems like a great guy….but the wins just aren’t coming and the Hawks are losing with epic fails night in and night out right now

  3. No surprise. GM is under pressure after Owner sanctioned spending spree this past offseason. At a minimum this gives a fall guy. Though, I don’t think the HC was particularly impactful, so it’s not unjustified.

    • Jason Lancaster

      Agree with most of what you’ve said, but would point out that Popp can work with anyone he likes. The fact that he chose Pierce speaks volumes.

      This is simply the front office scapegoating the coach. The owner and front office put the team in this situation when they went big on free agents this past summer.

      And this summer, when they let Collins leave for nothing, it will be the new coaching staff that gets the blame/credit for wanting to “go a different direction,” even if the real reason is that the owner doesn’t want to pay the tax.

      • As with any HC, his firing is not necessarily a general referendum on him as coach, HC or basketball man. It’s balanced out by salary and firings being without prejudice.

        Here, I agree that he looks clearly like the GM’s fall guy, and I’m not a fan of the GM, but he has the right to have a HC he has confidence in since the Owner is going to hold him responsible for performance. Pierce was hired by this GM, but to be a HC for a different (younger) roster than the one he had this year. Maybe he didn’t think Piece was necessarily the right guy to coach this group, and – frankly – Pierce did nothing to prove him wrong.

        • Jason Lancaster

          The jury is still out on Fizdale’s abilities as a head coach, but as an assistant coach or developmental coach? He’s excellent. And there’s plenty of proof of that too.

  4. DeathbyDeathwest

    It was either firing Pierce, or admitting their signings of Bogdan and Gallo didn’t work out.

    I’m guessing whoever permanently replaces Pierce will have til the next trade deadline to figure it out, before they have to start making harder decisions.

    • arthur blank_for owner

      he truly has been the biggest miss of all the injuries….really was taking a big step forward

      • Sillivan

        Knicks are the 4th seed
        With injury
        Hawks should be as good as Knicks or are comparable to Knicks

        If I were Rockets or Wolves coach, I would take Hawks job
        It’s all about future coaching career

    • Sillivan

      Wolves and Rockets have playoffs expectation
      Let’s say Rockets coach has 50 wins and 104 losses in 2 seasons, what should the GM do?

      Let’s say Wolves Coach has 40 wins 84 losses next 2 years
      What should GM do?


    Can we not make this about race?
    Pierce is a good coach. It’s obvious the ownership wants to win and be in playoffs, and believes it should. They spent money and are being impatient and unreasonable.
    This is the owner.

    • Jason Lancaster

      Why is race such an uncomfortable topic? We all know racism impacts the world we live in. Why not ask the question? Why not talk about it?

      And if not now, than when? When is the “right” time to talk about racism?

      • Twinsfan333

        @jason have you been living under a rock? That’s all that’s discussed is race. It is however now a one sided conversation. There is no “honest dialogue”. The better question is when do we stop taking about race and start treating people as individuals.

        • Jason Lancaster

          Why do we have to stop talking about race, exactly? Is it harming you somehow when people talk about it?

          Also, there are plenty of comments here from people that aren’t about race, but how the Hawks spent a lot of money this summer on the wrong free agents and had to fire the coach to cover that up.

          But why NOT talk about race? It certainly could be a factor, right? Who does it hurt to consider that possibility?

          • Kowalski

            Jason Lancaster: sir, the answer to you is simple, this site is basketball related, nba players movement, rumors. If you want to talk race, go to some forums that specifically talks about it. Peace!

        • Jason Lancaster

          I mean, we’re ALL a little racist, right?

          Almost everyone who takes the Harvard Implicit Association test (IAT) has some measurable bias. It’s an easy test to take, you can take it online, and it will help you see that bias is omnipresent. Google it and you’ll be done in maybe 10 minutes.

          If the question is, “Did Pierce get fired for purely racist reasons?” I’m all but certain the answer is no. But if the question is “Did racial bias play in part in Pierce getting dismissed?” I’m all but certain the answer is yes.

          So, like I said, why not talk about it? We could all be a little better, right?

  6. It is about race but yet they offered the job to a real coach Nate McMillian .

  7. Jimmy Fitzsimmons

    @Tatsumaki and all the other Race baiters out there. Please explain the nepotistic hiring and subsequent firing of Ryan Saunders. You’re point is invalid when you talk about qualified coaches and then bring up minorities in a league where blacks are the majority 3/1. Do you just like seeing a black man fail or is there not enough fledgling white coaches in the league to your liking?

    • bigpapi136

      Aren’t they giving Nate McMillan interim head coach? I mean if he does well odds are they give him the job. If he does well and they don’t give him the reigns then sure maybe play the race card.

    • I’ve read this a couple of times and cannot figure out what side of the issue you’re on.

      • Jimmy Fitzsimmons

        Lol. I’m on neither side as I refuse to play into the race baiting that goes on in our society. Tatsumaki had his post taken down but basically called Pierce an affirmative action hire. A ridiculous claim for a league dominated by black people. I was hoping he could answer my question and show his true colors or read it and see how ridiculous his thought process was.

        • Ah, I see. Without Tatsu’s post, it was tough to decipher what you were saying. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a coherent response from him.

  8. This guy needed to be fired. Hawks have such a talented team but their leader is not good enough. Hopefully McMillian can steer this ship right

  9. mcmillankmm

    Coaches always go quickly in the NBA…unfortunately for Pierce the offseason moves haven’t worked out so far…I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until the GM is gone

  10. phillyballers

    McMillan will do fine.

    I think you gotta handcuff Bogdan to Collins in a trade. Fix that debacle.

  11. I would’ve let them figure it as guys come back from injury. Feb was tough on them. Most of their losses were to playoff teams much superior to their roster at hand. Their defense needs to improve so maybe that’s something McMillan improves. I just think they’re young and need time together, and to get away for Trae (iso) ball.

  12. brian214

    Bet Luke Walton is glad he’s not held to similar standards and expectations.
    I was pulling for Pierce for how he helped Philly’s defense and the team as a whole.

    • Northern Expansion 416

      Well Walton is of the protected complexion. Plus he’s the son of a HOFer…

      • j_butte

        Were the Hawks racist when they hired him? Or just now that they’ve fired a guy who’s getting out coached every night in the fourth quarter? I’m sure they’re only giving McMillan the job so they don’t look racist…see how dumb you sound? Also, Pierce is not the first coach to get fired this year. The first coach was a white guy in Minnesota who just got the gig this year. Stupid racist T-Wolves, they hate white people, obviously.

    • andremets

      Walton is hanging on by a thread and is very likely the next coach to go since he has the worst defense in the NBA.

  13. Very Barry

    Headline should read ….. Trae Young Gets Lloyd Pierce fired ….. None of their much hyped free agent class has been able to stay healthy. Kris Dunn hasn’t played at all. Bogdanovich has been out most of the season. Gallinari is just now starting to play and Rondo plays whenever he feels like it. How can you blame/fire a coach when your additions have not played. Atlanta’s record is the best that it has been in at least 5 years.

  14. Metsin7

    I like this move for the hawks, McMilan wins wherever he goes, just not in the playoffs

    • andremets

      I was always impressed by McMillian and was surprised he was fired a couple of times. I would have liked for my Knicks to consider him , but in retrospect, Thibs was the perfect hire.

  15. Gary G.

    Guys I was going to stay out of this one but I’ll say this…


    They hired him, they gave him some time to succeed, and they didn’t like the results, so they canned him. End of story. Absolutely nothing to do with race. You guys need to stop it.

    • Jason Lancaster

      If you’re right, talking about the racial aspect of this event is harmless, correct?

      Are you somehow injured by questions about racial motivations? Why do you feel like you have to tell everyone that this ISN’T about race? What does that say about you and your motivations?

      • Gary G.

        All I’m reading here squabbling back and forth whether it’s about race or whether it isn’t. Racism is very real Jason, you and I both know this. And we’re both old enough to have experienced it in one way or another. But the solution is within the heart of man. Some men hate, some men don’t. We need to work on the heart of these men that hate.

        I would agree with you that any time is the right time to talk about it. Talk about Solutions. So you’re correct there.

        • Jason Lancaster

          I appreciate where you’re coming from. Squabbling is often pointless.

          Still, some good can come of it. If people listen and consider their own perspective, just as you’ve done here (to your credit), there’s arguably a net positive.

  16. Northern Expansion 416

    Wether it’s due to race or not, we all know the ethnic bias in North America period. I have my views and I’m not going to change them to lick anyone’s boots. I don’t sugar coat, I do a sugar free diet.

  17. thekayz

    This is about Travis Schlenk needing a fall guy. I don’t know how many people looked at these off-season moves and thought, “Fixed it!”

  18. Buckman

    The racism being suggested here cannot be documented by one firing nor can it be ameliorated with one hiring. None of us are social scientists so inevitably our “data” is cherry picked and bias confirming. Is minority hiring better than it used to be? Yes. Is it as good as it should be? No. Inevitably, coaches with losing records get fired so arguing over that is dumb and certainly not worth having an organism over. The more important argument/debate is over the frequency of minority hiring. Hiring a minority and then prematurely firing them because of their race will get expensive because you still have to pay their full contract while not hiring minorities is a clearer sign of unconscious/conscious bias.

  19. formerlyz

    Ridiculous. They made multiple dumb signings. Kris Dunn and Solomon Hill were good moves. Bogdanovic and Gallinari never made sense. Dunn has been out the whole year, Rondo hasnt been that useful for them. Hunter has been out, Reddish has missed decent amount of time as well…they never looked like a for sure playoff team. I think I had them 11th before the season.

    I’m a fan of SvG, but New Orleans fires Alvin Gentry to bring in someone extremely similar. Knicks fire Fizdale to bring in Thibodeau to do the literal exact same things he was doing. Same thing with the new guy in Indiana after firing Nate McMillan…I just have to question the differences in leash between these scenarios and certain others, and can think of several coaches that should be in more prominent circumstances.

  20. Very Barry

    The funny thing is …… It doesn’t matter who the coach is of Atlanta as long as Trae Young is your lead, dominant player ….. You are going to be a losing team. Trae is arguably the biggest defensive liability in the NBA. Makes a lot of plays that look great on SportsCenter ….. They don’t win you games. Why are you shooting 3pt shots from the logo when you only hit 36% of your 3’s????? Shooting from even further away is expected to increase the chance of the shot going in ????? But wait …. we only see highlights of the makes …. not the misses …..

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