The Atlanta Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce this week.
After coming into the season with a lot of momentum, the Hawks struggled out of the gate and never quite found their footing. Heading into the All-Star break, Atlanta is sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference after 34 games.
Poor play notwithstanding, the Hawks also struggled with bad chemistry, some players deeply hating how team star Trae Young gets his buckets, and incessant criticism from opposing coaches.
On the heels of Pierce’s dismissal, Sam Amick and David Aldridge of The Athletic did a deep dive into what went wrong in Atlanta. They found that Young, John Collins and Cam Reddish, essentially the Hawks’ core nucleus, did not like Pierce all that much.
“The lack of trust in Pierce, from numerous players, started in his first season,” they wrote. “For The Athletic’s anonymous NBA player poll in April 2019, when one Hawks player was asked which coach in the NBA would you not want to play for, he responded with, ‘Are we allowed to say the one we play for?’”
As a result, Pierce never quite got on the same page as his players.
“There’s no telling when he lost it,” a source told The Athletic. “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.”
Interestingly enough, it appears the bad blood was mutual. During a call with the league, Pierce reportedly expressed his displeasure with the way Young played basketball.
“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,” they wrote.
“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.”
A man decided to give his rooster a knife for a cockfight. Bad move. https://t.co/ajXiwLRH96
— Game 7 (@game7__) March 2, 2021
Young is averaging 9.8 free throws per game, good for second-most in the NBA. While the way he does it obviously irritates opposing coaches, it’d a bit odd that his own had such issues with it.
Although San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich firmly believes that the Hawks made a mistake letting Pierce go, the team’s 63-120 record throughout his tenure speaks for itself.
Atlanta has too much talent to be as bad as it has been. Maybe Pierce is at fault for the struggles, maybe not, but him not doing anything to solve the problem is as good a reason as any to fire him.
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