Atlanta Hawks Fire Head Coach Nate McMillan
The Atlanta Hawks fired head coach Nate McMillian during the NBA All-Star break instead of waiting until the end of the regular season. Rumors out of Atlanta suggest the Hawks want to hire Quin Snyder as their next head coach.
In the meantime, assistant coach Joe Prunty has become the Hawks’ interim head coach.
The biggest open secret in the NBA this season was that the Hawks were going to part ways with McMillan in the off-season. However, the Hawks decided to fire McMillan now while they still had time left to make a playoff run with 23 games remaining.
The Hawks (29-30) currently occupy eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. If the season ended today, the Hawks would be headed to the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament.
Despite a disappointing season, the Hawks are only three games behind the Miami Heat in the Southeast Division. The Heat are the consensus favorite to win the Southeast Division at -350 odds, and the Hawks are their closest competition at +350 odds.
The Hawks are +15000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, and are smack in the middle of the DraftKings’ NBA futures board. The Hawks are +4500 odds to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the 2023 NBA Finals. They’re seventh overall on the conference futures board.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projections, the Hawks will finish the regular season with a 41-41 record. They have a 49% chance to qualify for the postseason, with less than a 0.4% chance to win the NBA championship.
McMillan Ends Bumpy Stint with Hawks
McMillan had a solid NBA career as a combo guard, playing 12 seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics. After he retired in 1998, McMillan joined Paul Westphal’s coaching staff in Seattle.
In 2000, the Sonics hired McMillan as their head coach. In five seasons in Seattle, McMillian went 212-183 as a head coach, with a .537 winning percentage.
McMillan spent seven seasons as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, where he struggled with a 266-269 record between 2005-12.
After spending several seasons as an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers, McMillan took over as head coach at the start of the 2016-17 season. He led the Pacers to a 183-136 record and a .574 winning percentage, including four consecutive playoff berths. The Pacers were knocked out of the first round in four straight postseasons and were swept three times. The Pacers and McMillan parted ways at the end of the 2019-20 season.
McMillan joined the Atlanta Hawks as an assistant head coach in 2020 before eventually taking over the team midway through the 2020-21 season and leading them to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals.
In his first full season with the Hawks, McMillan went 43-39 in 2021-22. They finished the regular season in ninth place, and headed to the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament. The Hawks won both of their play-in games to secure the #8 seed before being knocked out in the first round by the top-seeded Miami Heat.
In 179 games as the head coach of the Hawks, McMillan posted a 99-80 overall record and a .533 winning percentage.
Trae Young the Coach Killer
McMillan and star guard Trae Young butted heads numerous times this season. The media blew up one of their spats in December. That’s when Young opted to get treatment instead of attending a shootaround practice. McMillan, like most NBA head coaches, has a policy where players who miss the morning shootaround won’t play in the game that evening.
McMillan didn’t make an exception for Young, so a thin-skinned Young opted to skip the game completely, and not sit on the bench in street clothes.
The two parties agreed to move on the next day, and McMillan chalked up the incident to a “miscommunication.” However, the Young/McMillan rift became clickbait fodder for the next week.
That incident wasn’t the first time that a superstar and head coach weren’t on the same page. But when Young is involved, it could cost a coach their job. In March of 2021, the Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce. The Hawks were 16-20 at the time, but Young didn’t get along with Pierce.
McMillan was an assistant coach with the Hawks at the time and took over for Pierce as the interim head coach. The team responded to the head coaching change, especially Young. He got hot in the playoffs and led the Hawks to a trip to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals.
When the honeymoon period between Young and McMillan wore off last season, their relationship took a rapid decline. Young turned against McMillan, just like he rejected Pierce.
If the Hawks don’t become a championship contender under their next head coach, then Young will become a pariah among the fraternity of NBA head coaches. Young is one of the most talented guards in the Eastern Conference, but he already convinced the front office to fire two guys he didn’t like.
Rumors: Hawks Want Quin Snyder
Quin Snyder is probably the best NBA head coach who doesn’t currently have a job. Snyder abruptly retired as head coach of the Utah Jazz at the start of last year’s off-season. He led the Jazz to six-straight postseason berths, including an appearance last season, when they were knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs.
Snyder didn’t want to be a part of the Jazz’s rebuilding effort, and stepped down before the team traded center Rudy Gobert and began shopping guard Donovan Mitchell to the highest bidder.
Hawks general manager Landry Fields wanted to get a jump start on courting Snyder, which is another reason why the team fired McMillan at the All-Star break instead of waiting until the end of the season. Multiple teams are expected to part ways with their head coaches this summer, and the Hawks want to be first in line to hire Snyder.
Development is huge on our priority list, as well as our character of coaches and accountability with players, and needing to get our offense and defense in the top 10,” Fields told The Athletic. “That’s the only way I see us progressing on the basketball court.”
Will Snyder even want to join the Hawks, with the knowledge that Young is a coach killer? Or could he be the right man for the job as the one head coach who can make a connection with Young?
Snyder was a former All-American point guard with Duke in the 1980s before he pivoted to coaching. The Hawks are gambling that Snyder can persuade Young to buy into a more team-oriented offense instead of letting every possession run through his hands.
Two assistant coaches are on Atlanta’s short list of head coaching candidates, including Charlie Lee from the Milwaukee Bucks and Kenny Atkinson from the Golden State Warriors.