Lloyd Pierce: ‘My job is not to be best friends with these guys’

Coach Lloyd Pierce greets Clint Capela during a break in the action in Monday's 112-94 victory over the 76ers at State Farm Arena. Capela finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, one of six Hawks in double figures.
Coach Lloyd Pierce greets Clint Capela during a break in the action in Monday's 112-94 victory over the 76ers at State Farm Arena. Capela finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, one of six Hawks in double figures.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce chose to speak to Michael Grady and Mitch Lawrence on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Friday morning.

Here is some of what Pierce, fired Monday, had to say about his 2-1/2 year tenure with the Hawks following his release by general manager Travis Schlenk.

On how the conversation with Schlenk went: “We were in the middle of a road trip. I spoke with our GM about being released and let go. For me, you understand the business. I’m a pretty mild-mannered person in general. I try not to keep my highs too high and my lows too low. One of the things I shared with Travis is he is the guy who hired me. … I mentioned in an article I did that at any point when this opportunity came, I would be ecstatic and at any point when it ended, I would be appreciative and thankful. Especially of Travis because he was the guy who believed in me. He was the guy who gave me the opportunity. I will never lose sight of that. So that was really the conversation for me with him at that moment.”

On whether he was surprised: “The surprise element of it is you always want more. I’m a competitor. I’m a coach. You want more. You want to feel as though even despite a down time, you are hoping that you can right the wrong and with patience, with time, with opportunity. But there is no surprise on my part in terms of understanding that. It’s just in the business. We saw Ryan Saunders get fired. You understand the nature of the business. They could have done it two years ago, a year ago, I would never be surprised. You just always want more as a coach. … I kind of look at things like that all the time. What’s the worst-case scenario that can happen today and you go through your mind and you try to prepare for overcoming the worst-case scenario all the time.”

On his level of disappointment not having the entire team healthy for a long stretch: “That is the easy way of looking at it. That’s the way people have looked at it for me. I’ve been a no-excuse person the whole time. We prided ourselves on being a we mentality team. I tried to instill that in the guys, understanding the mentality of the next man up. In our case, it was a next men up. There were a lot of guys who were out. I think it’s important to still maintain the same discipline that I was trying to instill in them. We can’t make excuses of who is not here and I have to coach who is here. I’m always going to put it on me and I’m going to look at it that way. I don’t care to make the excuse of injuries. It really sucks, to be honest with you. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It sucks when you miss the guys you have. You have some ideas and plans on what you can do with a full roster, the versatility, the depth, the balance that you have at your disposal. I just didn’t have it. Those were the cards that were dealt to me and that’s how it ended up.

“For me, it’s still what could I have done better with the roster that I did have. I’ll take that hit. I’ll take that hit because it’s only going to help me get better. Those guys will get better moving forward as they get healthier and that’s fine. It’s good for them. For me, it’s how could I have been better in the situation that I had. That’s the only way I’ll look at it.”

On his relation with Trae Young and players in general: “I think in any situation, and I’ve been an assistant coach me entire life until this job, one of the things I tried to do as often as I could was really just focus on the overall growth of the individual who I was coaching. Along those lines, it wasn’t always based on me being a great relationship guy. I didn’t want to be friends with everyone. I didn’t want to be their best friend. I wanted to be a guy who was citing as many examples as we could. What I did on my staff is I put every assistant coach with the players. A number of my assistant coaches has a number of players who they were mainly responsible for. They spent the time watching film. They spent the time on the court with their pregame vitamins. They were the ones charged with having tremendous relationships. That’s how it is, pretty much, with all NBA teams, how you divvy up the duties and responsibilities.

“So for any of our guys, and I don’t want to point out Trae and make it a bigger deal than it is, for any of our guys my job is to take all the hits. My job is also to get some of the credit. So if a relationship is strained, yeah that’s on me. If a guy is playing tremendous, I don’t necessarily say that’s on me as well. I like to deflect that and give that to the coach which was working with that guy. DeAndre Hunter was just named to the Rising Stars game. Well I’m going to give Matt Hill a ton of credit because he works with DeAndre Hunter. I’m not going to take that credit. I understand as the head coach it’s always going to be on me to make sure I put my guys, my staff, in position to operate successfully. So the relationships aren’t great. They are never going to be great. I’m the guy who has to pull the guy out of the game when he doesn’t think he needs to come out. That’s not going to be a great relationship all the time. I’m the guy who has to tell him to move the basketball more. That’s not going to be a great relationship. I have to make those.

“I tell our guys at the beginning of the year, 10 of you guys should be happy all year. Five of you guys should be pissed at me all year. I can’t play 15 guys. So you understand that before you even get going. And then the 10 that are out there, five of them will want the ball a little more. They are not going to be happy with me. Five of them are going to be really ecstatic. So you go back and forth with that. But that isn’t my job. My job is not to be best friends with these guys. My job is for them to understand me, to respect me, to know I have a plan and vision and I got to get them to try to execute that.

“I think that anyone who has every watched us play understands. I had a coach hit me up and say you guys are always the hardest team to game plan for because you were organized, you ran stuff and you guys showed up and there was versatility and balance. That’s my job. My job is to make sure that when we step on the court, we’re prepared, we’re organized, we’re hard to guard. Other than that, you put them in position where they can make plays and use their natural-given talent and work ethic to succeed.

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