Coaches Corner: Lloyd Pierce
Lloyd Pierce, head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, was named an assistant coach for the 2019 and 2020 USA Basketball Men's National Teams in April of 2019. Pierce also served as an assistant coach for the 2019 USA team that took part in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, and he will again be part of the USA coaching staff for the Tokyo Games next summer.
Pierce is in his second season as the Atlanta Hawks head coach. In his first season with Atlanta, he led the club to a five-win improvement over 2017-18, and he and his staff were instrumental in the development of NBA All-Rookie team members Kevin Huerter and Trae Young, with Young earning unanimous first team honors.
USA Basketball spoke to Pierce to gain some insight and perspective on coaching.
During this time, what type of coaching duties are you doing daily?
I think this has been somewhat of a refresher to not be so heavily involved in the video, but really into people, specifically our players, coaches and our individual group. Now we can find ways to become productive and better as a result of this isolated time. Our biggest thing is that we have tried to create a schedule for our players. We have player meetings on Thursdays and Sundays. Thursdays are led by our assistant coaches and Sundays are led by me. I try to keep the meetings more about the connectivity of each, rather than just the basketball component. We have had special guests join our meetings. We have had different topics, but really, it’s just connecting as much as we can and having an opportunity to not only connect, but to communicate with each other.
It’s one way to reach out to guys, which is really hard to reach out to everyone individually, but it is also good to just get on the phone and connect and see some faces and crack jokes, update on what’s going on, things of that nature. Having that human feel to it.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your coaching career?
I don’t know if there is a most important lesson, but I think the biggest thing is trying to ensure that you stay connected with your coaches, your players and your organization. It’s the relationships that you have that will drive everything. If you have poor communication with your players, it’s going to be really hard to challenge and motivate them. I think the biggest lesson you can learn is how to stay connected, how you instill confidence and motivate your guys on a daily, weekly, monthly and big-picture basis. That is two-way communication you want to have at all times. I think the biggest part of coaching is trying to establish that communication and elicit that two-way communication, so the players feel like they are involved and they are growing, but they also trust in the work that you are providing for them to grow. To me, especially at this level, it always comes down to communication and relationships.
Is there an over-arching principle or emphasis you try and instill within all of your teams?
The biggest thing is perspective - always keep things in perspective. That’s throughout the year, and that’s now. I think more so now it becomes even more prevalent that perspective is something that they all have to learn. Our perspective on life right now is what is essential: family, friends, health, community and things of that nature. I think sometimes we can get caught up in the game and what we want to deliver and get out of the game. We are blessed to just be able to play. To have this opportunity is to maximize it, and a lot of the time, maximizing opportunity is what you put into it. So, just trying to put all of these things into perspective and how important the game of basketball has been to us. So, what do we do with that opportunity? It is up to us, and this is a greater time, because the game had been taken away from us. So, what can we do to make the most of the opportunity we are in now and when we return to the game? So, we try to keep it all in perspective.
What is the most important characteristic you work to develop in your athletes?
Character, guys that think more of others than themselves, they think about the big picture and teamwork. It’s hard to win without character. They think about family, which means they are willing to give; they are willing to sacrifice and commit. It takes character for any of those things to happen. The biggest way to instill that or promote that is to be an example of it. It is important for me to show character, to show what character means, to talk about it and exemplify it, so there is no doubt that what we need is being led and provided by me. Right now is a great opportunity. You show character now through your actions, showing your players that you can give more, you can do more, you can be more. Not just for our team but for our community, our city. What are some of the things we are doing for our families? What are the things we are doing for our friends? Things like that are important at this time to show your character, your true character.