If things go as he hopes, Lloyd Pierce will become the Atlanta Hawks’ next head coach.
The 76ers assistant coach interviewed for the Hawks’ vacant head-coaching job on Friday. Pierce has known Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk for a long time. Schlenk was the assistant general manager for Golden State when Pierce was an assistant coach there during the 2010-11 season.
“I don’t know. We’ll just let it fly,” Pierce said of his chances to get the job.
The Hawks tanked this season, finishing tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the league’s third-worst record at 24-58. After losing a tiebreaker to the Mavericks, Atlanta has the fourth-best odds to get the first-overall pick in the draft lottery at 13.7 percent. They have a 42.3 percent chance to get a top-four pick and can finish no worse than seventh.
The Hawks have two more first-round picks – Nos. 19 and 30 – and a second-rounder, No. 33.
“They’ve got a lot of young players on the roster,” Pierce said. “It’s a similar situation to what we’ve been here in the last five years. So that probably had something to do with” the Hawks interest.
Pierce, who runs the Sixers’ defense, has been on the coaching staff since the fall of 2013. The Sixers won a combined 47 games during his first three seasons. That includes the team’s 10-72 campaign in 2015-16. Last season, the Sixers went 28-54 before improving to 52-30 this season.
“It’s a no-brainer. I would hire Lloyd Pierce yesterday,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Saturday. “Thinks about this: If a team came in and said, ‘We want to rebuild.’ I can’t think of a more appropriate program that has gone from where we were to where we are that has a true story to tell.”
Before Pierce joined the Sixers, he had assistant coaching stops with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Warriors. Pierce was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ player development coordinator from 2007-10. But his experience in Philly is perhaps the most impressive thing on his resume.
“It’s a statement, a testament to this program and what we’ve done here,” Pierce said of being noticed. “Obviously, people are paying attention to the ‘now.’ But what we’ve had to go through to get to this point, people recognize that throughout the industry.”
Under his guidance this season, the Sixers had one of the league’s top defenses. They were tied for sixth with the Miami Heat in opponent field-goal percentage at 44.9 percent. The Sixers were 10th in the league in points per game, averaging 106 this season.
In March 2016, Pierce’s alma mater, Santa Clara, pursued him to coach its men’s basketball program.
While he attended Santa Clara, Pierce teamed up with backcourt mate Steve Nash. He helped lead the Broncos to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in 1995 and 1996. After a four-year professional career with stops in Mexico, Australia, Germany and Turkey, Pierce returned to Santa Clara as an assistant coach from 2003-07 before moving to the NBA.
Pierce also coaches the Sixers’ summer-league team and has had a key role in Robert Covington’s development into arguably one of the NBA’s top three-point shooters and defenders.