While there have been many coaches around the league who have voiced their displeasure with the firing of Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce on Monday, it appears as though his ultimate dismissal from the team was only a matter of time. The relationship between Pierce and franchise star Trae Young has already been well documented, with Young contradicting his coach's statements to the media on multiple occasions over the past few seasons.
But a day after his firing, it was reported that several players on the Hawks were in support of bringing in a new coach, per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner, Sam Amick and David Aldridge.
"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."
Instances of players feeling unheard by Pierce on several occasions were reportedly a key factor in him losing the locker room. Cam Reddish often felt picked on for his mistakes, as other players on the team felt Pierce was "stunting his development." On another occasion, after Pierce made a comment two seasons ago about not running plays for John Collins and when the big man approached him about it, Pierce reportedly called Collins "selfish for wanting a more defined role."
It also didn't help that Pierce appeared to openly criticize the way Young -- his star guard -- draws fouls while participating on a conference call at the end of last year.
"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."
Not an ideal thing to say when the relationship between you and the franchise centerpiece is already contentious. These are just the latest instances of the Hawks' locker room having issues. Earlier this season, it was reported that Collins criticized Young for the way he was running the offense, leading to tension between the two players.
With all this new information coming out, it sounds as though there was a buildup of things that led to Pierce's dismissal, and certainly, a 14-20 start to the season didn't help matters. To be fair, though, many of the key pieces the Hawks brought in this season to compete for a playoff spot have missed significant amounts of time, including Bogdan Bogdanovic who has been sidelined since January, Kris Dunn who hasn't suited up at all this season and Danilo Gallinari who has been known to miss games here and there for injuries.
Still, though, it seems even with a healthy roster, Pierce had already lost the support of some of the key players on the team, which is never good for a coach. Atlanta is hoping that interim coach Nate McMillan can help put this team on the right track as we move into the second half of the season. If he does well, perhaps that interim tag is removed and the Hawks won't have to go searching for a new coach this offseason.