Steve Nash and Lloyd Pierce go way back.
The two went to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments together as teammates on Santa Clara’s basketball team in the mid-90s. They both went on to have pro careers — Nash is a two-time NBA MVP, while Pierce played overseas — before landing in the coaching ranks. Up until Monday, both were NBA head coaches.
After the Atlanta Hawks got off to a 14-20 start, Pierce, who is Black, was fired as the team’s head coach, igniting a strong, disapproving reaction across the league on Monday. Nash, now the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, was among the many who were disappointed to hear the news.
Nash Sounds off on Pierce’s Firing
Considering their long and strong friendship, it wasn’t a surprise for Nash to sound off in support of Pierce.
“He’s a heck of a young coach and an incredible human being,” Nash said, per NBA writer Michael Scotto. “There would be a lot of organizations that would be very fortunate to have him. Disappointed for Lloyd. With his talent, character, and work ethic, he’s going to be fine.”
But Nash certainly wasn’t the only NBA head coach to voice frustration Monday over Pierce’s firing. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who also is the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, called the move “insane,” per Forbes’ Doyle Rader.
“This is a shocking development to all of us in the coaching world,” Carlisle said, per Rader. “The timing seems odd. The team had injuries, a lot of those kinds of things, but Lloyd is a guy that has had a profound effect on the landscape of social justice, particularly over the last 12 months.
“He was the chairperson in Coaches for Racial Justice. He was the guy that was the first guy in the entire NBA to facilitate his local arena as a voting center in Georgia. That triggered a chain of events that led to 22 NBA arenas being certified as voting centers. As we’re all well aware, the state of Georgia, in very large part because of Lloyd’s work and his commitment, went from being a traditionally Republican state to a Democratic state—not only in the electoral college vote in the presidential election, but also in the runoff elections in January, which has massively changed the landscape of our country.”
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Could Pierce Be a Future Hire by Nash?
With the way Brooklyn’s offense is playing, Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni, who has had head-coaching stints with four different NBA teams previously, could be poised to land another head-coaching role this offseason. And if that transpires, Nash would have an opening on his staff.
It could be a match made in heaven for the former college teammates.
“Why wouldn’t you seek [Nash] out?” Pierce told the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro in a September article that dug into Nash’s ascension to Nets head coach. “He’s only one of the best players to ever play the game, with so much knowledge and so much willingness to share it. He’s my friend but this was an inspired choice. … He was fun to hang out with, fun to drink with, fun to converse with and fun to play with. And what more would you want than that?”
Nash and Pierce squared off as head coaches three times this season, with Nash’s Nets going 2-1 in those games. Pierce had been looking forward to facing his longtime friend.
“I want to beat the [bleep] out of [Nash],” Pierce told Vaccaro when Nash was hired by the Nets last year. “But let me tell you something: He’s just as competitive as me, and he’d say the same exact thing. That’s what the Nets are getting. I think they’ll like what they see.”