ATLANTA – The Atlanta Hawks are hiring a young coach in Lloyd Pierce to lead a rebuilding team that is about to add even more youth.
The Hawks announced Friday they are giving Pierce his first head coaching job in the NBA, choosing a man who has been an assistant with Philadelphia and Memphis to rebuild the franchise.
“It was critically important to find a dynamic teacher who could connect with and develop our young core while instilling the culture and high standards we feel are necessary in a successful program,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said in a statement. “Lloyd Pierce checks every box, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him leading the Atlanta Hawks into the future.”
The Hawks have scheduled a Monday news conference to introduce Pierce.
Pierce, 42, spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach in Philadelphia where the 76ers just reached the Eastern Conference semifinals after finishing third in the conference with a 52-30 record. Pierce also spent two years as assistant coach with Memphis Grizzlies, including 2013 when they reached the 2013 Western Conference finals.
“This is a day I’ve been working toward for a long time and it’s an honor to be the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks,” Pierce said. “I have great respect for Travis and strong belief in his plan to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta. After spending time with ownership, it’s clear they have a deep investment in and commitment to making this a model organization. This opportunity is a perfect fit for me, and I’m eager to get started.”
More youth is coming in the June 21 NBA draft. The Hawks have three first-round picks, so the rebuilding effort will gain momentum.
Pierce also has been an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors in 2010-11, and he was assistant coach for player development with Cleveland between 2007-10, which included three playoff berths and a spot in the 2009 Eastern finals. Pierce started as an assistant coach at his alma mater at Santa Clara between 2002 and 2007. He played four seasons with two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash a teammate.
Once the decision was made to part ways with former coach Mike Budenholzer, who was interviewing for other jobs, Schlenk emphasized he would seek a replacement to work with such young players as center John Collins and forward Taurean Prince.
Pierce replaces Budenholzer who left last month after five seasons with Atlanta . The Hawks went 24-58 this season, which was worst in the Eastern Conference and tied with Dallas for the NBA’s third-worst record. But they were rarely blown out, losing 21 games by fewer than 10 points with only seven losses by 20 or more points.
The last-place conference finish followed 10 straight playoff appearances. The Hawks hit bottom after the team that won 60 games only three years ago gradually lost such starters as Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague.
When outlining his plan last month to search for Budenholzer’s replacement, Schlenk emphasized he wanted to hire a coach best-suited to work with young players.
“Obviously one of the things that’s most important is having a coach who’s going to connect with our young players, continue to develop our young players,” he said. “That’s going to be a big part of it.”
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