Rumored coach candidate weighs in on Ainge's exit, state of Celtics


After Wednesday's bombshell news that Brad Stevens would replace Danny Ainge as the Celtics' president of basketball operations, former Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was reported as an expected candidate for Boston's head coach opening.

Pierce is currently an analyst for NBA TV, and as fate would have it, he was on air Wednesday night. Naturally, he was asked about Ainge's decision to step down.

"It's been a great run for Danny. He's been a significant part of that organization as a player and again as a general manager and head of basketball operations," Pierce said. "But you get it: Some health issues a couple years ago and advised to take it easy, and I think anytime you can walk away on your own terms and say, 'This is the time for me to focus on myself,' I think it's a testament and credit to him."

More notably, Pierce also praised Ainge's work as a GM and seemed bullish on Boston's future despite a disappointing 2020-21 season that ended in a first-round playoff exit to the Brooklyn Nets.

"He's done a tremendous job of bringing, think of the names that are there now, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, to the Celtics organization," Pierce said. "And they have a prideful organization. They're all about winning, they've always been about winning, and he's put them in a great position to do so going forward."

Pierce has yet to interview for or be officially linked to the Celtics head coach job -- the C's reportedly will start their search by interviewing internal candidates -- so he's free to talk about the team. And while he could just be paying lip service, it sounds like he's a fan of what Ainge and Stevens have built.

Whether Pierce is the right person for the job remains to be seen. The 45-year-old struggled in his two-plus-year coaching stint with the Hawks, compiling a 63-120 record before being fired in March and watching interim coach Nate McMillan lead a remarkable turnaround.

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Pierce's fellow NBA TV analyst, former player and head coach Sam Mitchell, also pointed out the rigors of coaching in the NBA -- and that Pierce is aware of those rigors.

"People don't understand, and Coach (Pierce) will tell you: Coaching is hard, and managing people and all the things," Mitchell said.

"Coach and I were talking about this last time: Most of your day is spent putting out fires. Most of your day isn't spent thinking about coaching your team better, it's addressing all the day-to-day problems that come with being a head coach. This job, being a head coach, is not for everybody. You've got to be built for it."

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