The Atlanta Hawks have dismissed coach Nate McMillan, the team announced Tuesday. The Hawks are in the middle of a disappointing 29-30 season, which followed an underwhelming first-round playoff exit a season ago. Assistant coach Joe Prunty will take over as interim head coach.
With this season seemingly going nowhere, the Hawks have made a move that will hopefully spark the team. The last time they made an in-season coaching change, it did just that. The Hawks fired Lloyd Pierce in the middle of the 2020-21 season and replaced him with McMillan. They proceeded to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, which raised expectations moving forward and earned McMillan, initially hired on an interim basis, the permanent job.
But McMillan's old-school sensibilities made him an odd fit in the modern NBA. He got into a dispute with star point guard Trae Young in the middle of the season when Young chose to sit out of a shootaround so he could receive treatment for an injury. McMillan told Young that he could either come off of the bench that night or miss the game entirely. Young chose the latter.
This was supposed to be a significant season for Young and Atlanta, as the Hawks acquired All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray in the offseason to pair with Young. The hope was that Murray's elite defense would allow him to fit well with Young when they played together, and that having another top point guard would help keep the Hawks afloat when Young sat. Instead, the Hawks have struggled to play .500 basketball. McMillan isn't the only leader being held responsible for those struggles.
The Hawks have experienced significant turnover in their front office this season, with former general manager Travis Schlenk moving into an advisory role while Landry Fields took over as head of basketball operations. In addition, Nick Ressler, the 27-year-old son of owner Tony Ressler, has assumed a meaningful role in the team's front office. With all of those changes, the Hawks will now seek a new head coach to help right the ship after two mediocre seasons.
Atlanta was McMillan's fourth head-coaching job in the NBA, as the 58-year-old also led the Seattle Supersonics, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers. He reached the playoffs with all four teams, but never got to the NBA Finals. Now, the Hawks will try to clear that hurdle with a new coach, while McMillan will enter this offseason's coaching carousel.