Lloyd Pierce on being fired by the Hawks: Whatever the case may be, I’m not the first person to be fired or let go. And the team’s going on and done well. That’s happened many times before. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit sometimes it’s just not the right understanding. Sometimes the growth of the organization moves at one speed and you’re moving at a different and someone else is able to do it differently and better, or whatever the case may be. And I get that. I think as coaches we all respect one another. And I think Doc’s statements were to be a realist, but also to show support, because he understands the grind that we all go through as coaches the day-to-day part. Are you coaching minute restrictions? Are you coaching injured players? Are you coaching transactions… whatever the case may be, we know it. We know it more than the outside. And so he’s just showing his support. But he’s also saying, hey, I’ve been there. There’s other coaches that have been there. Unfortunately, that’s what we go through, but we all know it.
Lloyd Pierce: And so for me, I've always said, and I told Travis this when when he hired me, and I told him this, the day he told me that we were moving in a different direction, I said 'I'm always going to be appreciative of the offer, because who knows if you ever get to be a head coach in this NBA league' I'm in my 14th year and I've already been a fired head coach. To me, that's the greatest accomplishment I can tell someone. I'm a fired NBA head coach, and it's only been 14 years. So that shows how far I've come in a short time. And I still have a long way to go in my career, so I'm fine.
Sarah K. Spencer: John Collins on Lloyd Pierce: “A very unforgiving league in the sense of people coming & going, but obviously my time with LP was amazing. He tried to teach me a lot of very powerful things about how to be a man, about how to be a player, about how to develop and improve myself.”
Chris Kirschner: Nate McMillan said he was surprised with Lloyd Pierce's firing.
Kevin Chouinard: McMillan on his initial reluctance to accept the interim job. "I told Travis that wasn't what I came here for... (Lloyd) had his assistants in place."
But the real headliner event took place when Pierce and Trae Young met privately to discuss their upcoming third year together. At that point, anyone and everyone around the Hawks organization was well aware the relationship between these two key figures was strained. If the Hawks were going to make the playoffs this season and contend, if they were going to avoid delays to accomplishing their shared goals, they would have to make this pairing work. Sources say they ended the trip on good terms and had a better understanding of how they each could make this work for the long term.
But in the end — after old tensions between Pierce and Young resurfaced, other players grew frustrated with Pierce’s style and owner Tony Ressler’s desperate desire to make the playoffs added so much pressure to the situation — it was not to be. Those plans Pierce and Young had hatched in Southern California officially fell short Monday when the underperforming Hawks (14-20) announced that Pierce had been relieved of his duties.
The 44-year-old coach, who was in the last guaranteed year of his contract and who had spoken so openly just last week in an interview with The Athletic about the likelihood that he would be let go, will be replaced by an interim coach in Nate McMillan who had been serving as Pierce’s lead assistant. And the primary reason for it all, sources say, is that several players — from Young on down — were eager to hear a new voice.
But Young was hardly alone here. Sources say player support beyond Young was dwindling at the end, with several sharing their desire for a change with management recently. Still, the difficult dynamic between Young and Pierce was an undeniable factor in Pierce’s downfall and a tone-setter of sorts for the group at large.
Pierce made a public comment two seasons ago about not running plays for Collins, and it rubbed the Hawks big man the wrong way. Collins went to Pierce about his issue with the statement, but Pierce, sources say, turned around and called Collins’ approach selfish in wanting to have a more defined role on the team. Over time, the residue from these types of situations remained.
Cam Reddish was among those, sources said, who also had an issue with Pierce’s coaching. Sources said Reddish felt like he was being “picked on” behind the scenes when it came to mistakes the second-year player made. There are a few players on the Hawks’ roster who feel like Reddish’s potential is higher than anyone on the roster but that Pierce’s input was stunting his development.
There wasn’t a specific event that led to Pierce losing the locker room but rather a collection of small moments that built up since his first season in Atlanta and finally combusted in the team’s first season with expectations under him. “There’s no telling when he lost it,” one source close to the team said. “He didn’t have support from many people. It came down to him not being able to manage egos. That’s what did him in, especially these young guys. It’s tough.”
During a league office Competition Committee call on Dec. 30, Pierce was among a couple of members who spoke out about the way certain players are able to draw fouls and, at times, bait officials into making foul calls. Multiple sources said he spoke about how he “hates” the shots Young takes at times and the fouls he’s able to draw on them. It was perceived as an interesting comment for several people on the call because Pierce’s star player has seemingly taken advantage of drawing fouls and getting to the foul line. But it was made in the broader picture of how players are drawing fouls by manipulating their bodies.
Over the past few weeks, players started to wonder if Pierce had resigned to the inevitability of his situation and was going to go out his way. As the same story played out in end-of-game situations, sources say Hawks owner Ressler grew incensed with his team losing winnable games in the same manner.
By the time the Hawks reached the unexpected end of their 2019-20 campaign, with a 20-47 record on March 11 that would stand for good after the NBA decided not to invite the Hawks (or seven other teams) to the Orlando bubble, sources say Pierce’s job security was already extremely tenuous, in large part, because of the locker room’s distrust in him. When Pierce publicly declared last March that the Hawks would be in the playoffs this season, it caught everyone inside the front office by surprise.
Whenever Schlenk was asked about it on multiple occasions over the course of the next few months, he would always be sure to downplay Pierce’s guarantee. If not for a multitude of non-basketball factors, from the pandemic that had forced the premature end to their season to the emergence of the social justice movement in which Pierce was so involved, sources with knowledge of the Hawks’ plans say he may have been fired at that point.
Stan Van Gundy: Today was a bad day in the NBA. A great man lost his job. Lloyd Pierce is not only a very good coach he is a great and inspirational leader. I learned a great deal from him last summer on phone calls regarding social justice. The NBA needs Lloyd Pierce! He’ll be back!
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lloyd Pierce was supportive of him accepting the interim job, which was important to McMillan, sources tell ESPN.
Jake Chapman: Steve Clifford on the firing of Lloyd Pierce: "It sucks. Plus he's done a really good job... He started from scratch there and he's done a really good job. Last year, in my opinion, if John Collins doesn't miss all those games, they're a playoff team."
JD Shaw: The Hawks have officially fired Lloyd Pierce. Statement from GM Travis Schlenk: pic.twitter.com/LV80Tk85vR
June 22, 2021 | 9:02 pm EDT Update
James Edwards III: The Pistons get the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The first time since 1970. Also the first time the team has ever moved up in the lottery.
Ben Golliver: 2021 NBA Draft Lottery order 1. Pistons 2. Rockets 3. Cavaliers 4. Raptors 5. Magic 6. Thunder 7. Warriors (from Timberwolves) 8. Magic (from Bulls) 9. Kings 10. Pelicans 11. Hornets 12. Spurs 13. Pacers 14. Warriors
James Edwards III: Ben Wallace: “I think my game would be (perfect) for today’s game. The game was built for giants. Now there’s freedom to run, move and it’s a lot faster.” “I think the game got a little bit soft.”
Rod Beard: #Pistons Ben Wallace on his future in coaching/front office: “I would coach, but I hope and pray that I don’t run into a guy like Ben Wallace … what I can bring to the game goes a little past coaching.”