You’ll never get everyone to agree on everything. But there seems to be a general consensus among the Atlanta Hawks stars that something needed to change, even if none of them foresaw that change being the dismissal of Nate McMillan who had guided them to a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals just two seasons ago.
If it seems like things are happening rapidly for the Hawks, they are.
Aside from McMillan’s firing, which comes upon the Hawks’ return to practice from the All-Star break, the Hawks changed their front office structure just two months ago.
“I think that is the key,” interim head coach Joe Prunty said via the atlhawksfans YouTube channel. “We have to move forward. For example, today we had a good practice. Guys were spirited, good energy although we definitely could tell we had a break in terms of conditioning and needing to get our legs underneath us. But, that having been said, it is about that: keep moving forward. We had a positive day today. Now, we have to do it again, be better tomorrow.”
Prunty has been with the Hawks for the past two seasons. He joined the staff following that run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2020-21 season, the same year McMillan assumed control following the ouster of Lloyd Pierce.
The 54-year-old lifetime assistant did guide the Milwaukee Bucks to a 37-16 record and the postseason following a 23-22 start under Jason Kidd, now with the Dallas Mavericks.
To this point, it is unclear whether or not he will be a serious candidate for the job.
“The only thing that I’ve spoken with Joe about right now is to focus on the task at hand,” general manager Landry Fields said. “I’m putting them in positions that are challenging. To do this right now, sort of so last minute, there’s enough on Joe’s plate to focus on this team, to make sure that, however long he’s sitting in that interim seat, he supported and does the best he can do. So that’s been my communication with him. Just focus on the task at hand and we’ll cover everything else later.”
Hawks GM Landry Fields Putting Joe Prunty in ‘Challenging’ Situation
Fields placed an emphasis on accountability and player development among other keys for the next person to fill the role on a permanent basis. But Prunty expressed his empathy for the person who just vacated it.
“It’s a tough day for all of us,” Prunty said. And this is the business. But there’s a personal side to it as well. Coach [McMillan] has won 760 games. Not a lot of people have done that – the type of person that he is. So, for us, we just have to be focused on: look, the business happened. We know what we need to do to be better. And that’s on everybody, including myself. And I understand I step into this role at this time as the head coach. But I’ve also been I’m a part of this. I’ve been here. So, I think the big thing is for everybody to understand what has taken place and what we need to do.”
Prunty’s answer is fine if not expected. But how did the players feel?