ATLANTA — Lloyd Pierce is not your typical NBA head coach.
In the same summer where the Charlotte Hornets named James Borrego the first full-time Hispanic head coach in the NBA, Pierce made the move from Philadelphia to Atlanta.
He’s soft-spoken but respected. He prides himself on defense but also worked with Stephen Curry during post-practice shootarounds during his early years in Golden State. He’s received his first head coaching gig in the NBA, like J.B. Bickerstaff and David Fizdale before him, as a black man who’s never played in the NBA before the age of 50.
Pierce is a well-read and interesting man who has just started a family and is trying to adjust to life in a new city.
“I’ve had a lot of good days in the city of Atlanta,” Pierce said in an interview with Big Tigger during the Hawks’ Fan Experience event last Saturday.
The coach went on to summarize some of his highlights of being in the city, which have included attending Atlanta United, Dream, Braves and Falcons games. Pierce said he also planned on taking a trip to Piedmont Park after Saturday’s open practice.
The athletic events and tourist attractions in the city are common pit stops for new faces in the city to make, but Pierce took it a step further. Since being hired by the Hawks, he’s invited Ambassador Andrew Young to speak at training camp, he’s visited Jon Lewis in Georgia 5th Congressional District office, he’s seen Big Boi perform live at the College Football Hall of Fame and he took the trip with assistant Melvin Hunt to Southwest Atlanta to visit Rev. Joseph Lowery in his home. Hunt and Pierce went to see Killer Mike at his SwaggShop on Edgewood as well.
“This city is enriched in history,” Pierce said. “There are so many people who have paved the way in different avenues, different sectors that have contributed to the success and community here in Atlanta. I’ve just tried to learn about it, first and foremost, to present an opportunity to get myself, my staff, my team in front of those guys, and just take as much knowledge, insight, perspective that we can from anyone that’s ever been a part of the beautiful city of Atlanta.”
In addition to speaking to and getting to know Atlanta legends such as Lenny Wilkens and Dominique Wilkins, Pierce is also focused on giving back to the city. The first-year head coach said that he’s interested in mentoring the local youth and in September, he hosted his inaugural Coach Pierce Atlanta Hawks Coaches Clinic, where various coaches from the metro Atlanta area were given tips from the newest Atlanta staff inside of the Emory Sports Medicine Complex.
“I know we provide a platform,” he said. “I know we provide an area of hope for a lot of people as basketball ambassadors in the city of Atlanta. I think it’s our obligation and responsibility to give back and present ourselves. Whatever format that is, we’re working toward, we’re brainstorming on a couple ideas but I think it’s important because we are the ambassadors. We are the leaders in the basketball community here in the city of Atlanta.”
One thing that Pierce has appeared to be his entire career is a player’s coach.
LeBron James has called Pierce a “great friend” and “one of his favorite coaches.” With nearly 42 million followers on Twitter, one of the 186 accounts that James follows is Pierce’s.
Stephen Curry called Pierce a “hard worker” and a “great hire” by the Hawks. Dwyane Wade echoed Curry’s praise and tweeted “ATL y’all got it right.” Robert Covington even attended Pierce’s opening press conference in Atlanta back in May to show support for his former coach. Pierce was with the 76ers for all of Covington’s first five years in the league — 2018-19 will be Covington’s first without Pierce on the bench helping him to become the best player he can be.
“It’s all relationships,” Pierce said. “I don’t really look at the ‘star’ name or whoever it is, for me it’s whoever I’m working with, my objective is the same to help them get better, to develop relationships with those guys that are bigger and more than basketball. I think that’s been the common ground, they understand that my whole objective is pure: How do we get better? How do we develop relationships? How do we format those relationships that are eternal?”