Regime change is coming to Peachtree City. The Atlanta Hawks made a coaching move and fired Lloyd Pierce after a 14-20 start to the season. The Hawks promoted assistant coach Nate McMillan, who spent 16 seasons as a head coach with the Seattle Sonics, Portland Trail Blazers, and Indiana Pacers.
Since relocating from St. Louis, where the 1957-58 Hawks won an NBA title, the Atlanta Hawks have never won the Eastern Conference, let alone appeared in the NBA Finals after arriving in Georgia during the 1968-69 season.
The Hawks had a 10-year stretch starting with the 2007-08 season in which they advanced to the postseason every year. But they haven’t qualified for the postseason since they were knocked out in the opening round of the 2017 NBA playoffs.
In the last three seasons, the Hawks were among the worst teams in the NBA and never won more than 29 games.
The Hawks thought they found a new core with young stars like Trae Young and John Collins, but this season was a disappointment under Pierce. In the last three seasons, the Hawks were 63-120 under Pierce, who won less than 35% of his games. The Hawks have a plethora of other problems, including mounting injuries, but the team made Pierce the scapegoat.
If the season were to end right now, the Hawks sit in the #11 spot in the Eastern Conference, though they still have some hope in a hopelessly mediocre Eastern Conference. The Hawks are only 3.5-games behind the New York Knicks, who currently occupy the #4 seed.
The Hawks have never been the same since their heyday with Lenny Wilkens as their head coach in the 1990s. They caught a glimpse of the high life with Mike Budenholzer, who led the Hawks to a spot in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals, but the franchise has been in the crapper since that high-water mark.
It’s tough to win games when you have a lackluster roster and are committed to tanking. Pierce might’ve been the right guy to help the franchise tank, but now the Hawks are looking toward McMillan to get them back on track as a consistent playoff team.
|Atlanta Hawks Head Coaches Since 1984|
- Mike Fratello 324-250
- Bob Weiss 124-122
- Lenny Wilkens 310-232
- Lon Kruger 69-122
- Terry Stotts 52-85
- Mike Woodson 206-286
- Larry Drew 128-102
- Mike Budenholzer 213-197
- Lloyd Pierce 63-120
- Nate McMillan TBD
Since the Hawks fired Budenholzer, he’s been a coach of the year candidate with the Milwaukee Bucks. Budenholzer led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA in back-to-back seasons. Sure, the Bucks have the Greek Freak, but Milwaukee had a stronger commitment to winning versus Atlanta’s lo-fi approach the last few seasons.
The Hawks had a string of injuries this season, including key free agents that they brought in like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kris Dunn to help out Young and Collins. Even last year’s top draft pick, De’Andre Hunter, went down with a knee injury.
Pierce Out, McMillan In
McMillan made a name for himself as a hard-nosed, defensively-minded point guard with the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1980s and 1990s. He once set the rookie record for most assists in a game with 25.
McMillan started his coaching career with the Sonics as soon as he retired. After two seasons as an assistant, the Sonics named him head coach in 2000.
After five seasons with the Sonics, including leading them to their first-ever Northwest division title in 2004-05, McMillian headed south on I-5 to coach the Portland Trail Blazers. He was dismissed halfway through his seventh season with the Blazers in 2001. The big knock against McMillan is that he could never get the team out of the first round of the playoffs.
McMillian spent 19 seasons with the Sonics as a player and coach. He’s often referred to as “Mr. Sonic” due to his loyalty within the organization.
McMillan recently finished a four-year stint with the Indiana Pacers. He guided them to four-consecutive postseason berths, but once again, couldn’t get over the hump. The Pacers were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for four seasons in a row. McMillan joined Pierce’s staff with the Hawks in the offseason.
As an NBA head coach, McMillan won 53% of his games and has an overall record of 667-591.
Last week, the Minnesota Timberwolves fired Ryan Saunders. Which NBA head coach could be next?