In his introductory press conference on Monday morning, new Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce addressed a number of questions about the current assistant coaching staff in Atlanta and what he will be looking for in his staff. Upon Mike Budenholzer’s recent exit from the organization, his assistants were not let go and remain under contract with the team. Pierce and general manager Travis Schlenk will sit down with the assistants this week in order to figure out which of them will stay on staff and which will need to be replaced.
Pierce reiterated multiple times throughout the press conference that he’s a development-first head coach and will be looking for assistants who will push the players and Pierce himself to be better every day.
“It’s not trying to find someone who’s just going to say yes to everything I ask,” said Pierce. “As we talk about growth and development, not only on the court but off the court with our players, it’s guys who are relational, who can communicate with our players.”
Building an assistant coaching staff through strong personal character and developmental tendencies is nothing foreign to the Atlanta Hawks; that’s precisely what Budenholzer did when he first took the job in 2013. While the team was in a different place competitively when Budenholzer took over, the emphasis on player development was there from the beginning as “Hawks University” began to take hold as the nickname for the Atlanta coaching staff and what they were able to do with players like Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore, and DeMarre Carroll, turning undrafted and unheralded players into 8-figure stars.
The accentuation on relationships was apparent throughout Pierce’s comments on Monday. When asked about what he’ll be looking for in his assistant coaches, he told reporters: “Everyone at this level, Xs and Os, they’ll be fine, everyone can put together a scouting report, they’ll be fine, but it’s that communication, it’s that ability to relate, that ability to motivate.”
In this sense, the current crop of assistant coaches may have a leg up in competition with any outsiders Pierce has in mind for these positions, as they’ve been developing relationships with the Hawks’ young roster over the last few years in addition to their strong on-court developmental reputations.
Of the current assistant coaches, only Chris Jent has experience with Pierce—the pair coached together for three years in Cleveland under Mike Brown during LeBron James’ first stint with the Cavaliers. Jent joined Budenholzer’s staff last summer as a replacement for Neven Spahija, who left the NBA to take the head job at Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Outside of Jent, Pierce will have to evaluate the rest of the staff in their meetings this week as he makes his decisions on whom he’ll keep and whom he’ll have to replace as the Hawks move forward in their rebuild.