Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young fires back at ‘coach killer’ accusations

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young has been one of the most polarizing players in basketball since he was drafted into the NBA five years ago.

In fact, his very entrance into the league was the subject of intense debate and scrutiny, as he was one half of the trade that sent Serbian superstar Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Atlanta’s right to draft the former Oklahoma Sooner.

Since then, Young has turned himself into one of the premier offensive masterminds of this generation and has led the Hawks on their deepest playoff run since the franchise moved to Atlanta. Despite this, he still frequently finds himself as the subject of sometimes fair, sometimes unfair accusations, mostly centered around his defensive weaknesses, perceived propensity to play hero ball, and, perhaps most damaging to his reputation, the fact that he is already on his third head coach in five years, leading some to label him as an uncoachable player, unwilling to buy into a system greater than himself.

Young recently took to his newly-launched “From The Point” podcast to address these accusations.

“I take a lot from my coaches. As much as people want to say what they want, it is what it is,” said the point guard.

He later went on to speculate as to why NBA fans throw potentially unfair labels at him with such reckless abandon.

“It could be because of that one Knicks series, so people look at me as a villain and someone that they can just throw hate on and throw certain labels at you,” said the two-time All-Star.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is now on his third head coach

Young began his career under head coach Lloyd Pierce, who was leading an NBA bench for the first time in his career at the time.

While the Hawks weren’t expected to win many games in Pierce’s first couple of seasons, frustration began to mount when the team was still well below average midway through the 2020-21 season, which led to Pierce’s dismissal and the promotion of then-assistant Nate McMillan.

What ensued was nothing short of magical, as Young and the Hawks quickly dispatched the (laughably bad in retrospect) New York Knicks, before outlasting the Philadelphia 76ers and taking the Milwaukee Bucks to six games in the conference finals.

However, the next year and a half would see turmoil, as McMillan proved unable to guide the Hawks anywhere near the lofty heights of 2021 and had several public spats with Young himself, which ultimately resulted in his termination this year in favor of Quin Snyder.

Hawks get brutally honest about former HC Nate McMillan. light. Related Story

So, is Trae Young really a coach killer? No. Yes, his ego might be a bit oversized at times, and yes, he does need a very specific set of pieces and a well-defined system around him in order to maximize his strengths.

But the reality of the situation is that Pierce and McMillan were both objectively bad NBA head coaches, and it’s no wonder that neither one has received even an interview, let alone a job offer, since parting ways with Atlanta. It may sound harsh, but the truth is that Atlanta made the conference finals in 2021 despite Nate McMillan, not because of him.

Now, for full transparency, Young is not always the most PR-savvy when it comes to reflecting a positive image of himself. He’s had more than one postgame soundbite that presented himself in a less-than-selfless way, and his unwillingness to even show up at State Farm Arena for a game in which he was injured this past season, reportedly due to a feud with McMillan, was downright unprofessional.

Still, it’s easy to understand the point guard’s frustration when national pundits, many of whom do not watch any Hawks games, throw unfair labels in Young’s direction without any regard for context or even the slightest ounce of logic.

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It certainly makes sense that he’d want to set the record straight on his podcast.