After firing Lloyd Pierce, these five candidates should be on the Atlanta Hawks’ radar for their next, long-term head coach.
The Atlanta Hawks came into the 2020-21 campaign with heightened expectations. When those optimistic projections didn’t materialize, head coach Lloyd Pierce became the fall guy.
It’s both understandable and unfair that Pierce got the boot. For a front office that wanted to get Trae Young his first taste of the playoffs after there were rumblings that he was already feeling disgruntled with all the losing, it makes sense to make Pierce, his 63-120 record over two-and-a-half-seasons and his 22nd-ranked defense the scapegoat. The entire offseason was devoted to supplementing a younger core with established talent, and the results — 11 blown fourth-quarter leads and a 15-20 record in the Eastern Conference, where even a .500 record would be good for the 5-seed — were discouraging.
That line of thinking also ignores the larger context, which is that the Hawks have dealt with a myriad of injuries to start the season. They were 9-9 with a healthy De’Andre Hunter but have gone 6-11 without him. The team’s prized offseason acquisitions, Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic, have missed 12 and 25 games, respectively. The timing of Pierce’s firing was curious until The Athletic reported on the apparent friction between Young and his coach. Pierce had lost the locker room, with many younger players feeling like they weren’t being heard or like their development was being stunted.
Now the reins are being turned over to assistant Nate McMillan on an interim basis as the Hawks try to get healthy and work their way back into the playoff picture after the All-Star break. That’s not some lofty goal either, since Atlanta is only 1.5 games back from the 8-seed heading into Wednesday night’s action.
The question is, will McMillan be the right man for the job for the long haul? Or would another outside candidate be better-suited for the job as their next long-term head coach? Here’s a look at the five candidates who would make the most sense.
Honorable mentions: Ime Udoka, Dave Joerger