The Atlanta Hawks fired Lloyd Pierce on Monday. Atlanta is 14-20, 11th in the Eastern Conference, and decided to move on from Pierce. Nate McMillan, hired as an assistant before this season, will succeed on an interim basis.
Losing to the Miami Heat made it a 4-11 February for Pierce’s Hawks. For a team which harbored playoff ambitions, this was a meltdown. The early season promise on the defensive end proved to be no more than that.
De’Andre Hunter‘s injury derailed their campaign – they could not defend without Hunter. It added to an injury crisis which has left them with no opportunity to pair their young core with their offseason acquisitions. Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hunter and Cam Reddish have all missed substantial time.
These absences suggest Pierce didn’t get a fair crack. The front office handed him a revamped team this offseason, but Pierce never got to even experiment with this new group. Kris Dunn hasn’t taken the court as a Hawk yet. Rajon Rondo has played under 300 minutes.
Hawks fire Lloyd Pierce: Where it went wrong
Pierce isn’t without his critics, however. The defense still could have been better. The flaws in Trae Young‘s game remain on both ends, and some of their fourth quarter play was frustrating to watch even as a neutral. McMillan’s presence, although loyal to Pierce, meant their was persistent pressure. Atlanta entered this season with high expectations, perhaps unreasonably so, and Pierce was always likely to be the scapegoat if the season went south.
This is salvageable for McMillan and the Hawks. A play-in spot is well within reach, and it’s not infeasible that they finish in the top six, but firing Pierce implies he was the main problem. That feels misguided. The injuries made Pierce’s life incredibly difficult, but even when healthy, this roster is not perfect. The front office were aggressive, maybe prematurely, in the offseason.
There was no John Collins extension. Collins’ future is up in the air with trade rumors swirling. Reports of unrest between Collins and Young did not help Pierce’s case, but that off-court chemistry was more likely to be tested when they did not give Collins the deal he wanted and signed players in his position.
Was Lloyd Pierce the perfect head coach? No. Did he get a fair chance this season? Also no. Have the Hawks made a mistake firing him? Only time will tell.
This is a harsh reminder of the unjust world of NBA coaching. Pierce didn’t get everything right, but he didn’t get chance to get too much wrong either. Flamboyant front office moves and injuries were his downfall – neither of which are his fault.