The Atlanta Hawks will return from the All-Star break with a new coach.
Head coach Nate McMillan has been fired by the Hawks, the team announced on Tuesday. Assistant Joe Prunty will take over as Atlanta's interim head coach.
“I would like to thank Nate for his leadership and professionalism during his time with the Hawks. He is truly a class act, and we appreciate the graciousness and work ethic he brought with him every day,” general manager Landry Fields said in a statement. “Decisions like these, especially in-season, are always extremely difficult, but we believe it’s in the best interest of our team to move forward with another voice leading the way.”
The Hawks are starting a search for a new permanent head coach immediately, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, with ex-Utah Jazz head coach Quin Synder expected to be at the top of their list. Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson reportedly are among those expected to also be considered for the position.
This will be the first head coach hiring for Fields, who replaced Travis Schlenk as the front office's lead decision-maker in December. Schlenk has since transitioned from president of basketball operations to a senior advisory role.
McMillan, 58, was elevated from assistant to interim head coach following the firing of Lloyd Pierce in March 2021. The Hawks completely turned their season around with McMillan at the helm, going 27-11 to earn the Eastern Conference's No. 5 seed. Atlanta then upset the No. 4 New York Knicks and No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers before falling to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals.
But since McMillan was elevated to the full-time role ahead of last season, Atlanta has failed to regain the form it showed during that incredible playoff run. The Hawks entered the 2022 playoffs as the No. 8 seed after a 43-39 regular season and lost in five games to the Miami Heat in the first round.
A big-time offseason trade to bring in Dejounte Murray hasn't helped turn things around this season, with Atlanta currently sitting eighth in the East at 29-30.
Things haven't gone smoothly off the court, either. In December, McMillan and Trae Young reportedly had an exchange at a shootaround that led to the star point guard not attending a game. In the wake of the incident, McMillan revealed he would consider retiring after the season.
Prunty, 54, has been on Atlanta's staff since last season and boasts more than two decades of experience as an NBA assistant. He also has interim head coach experience, taking over the Bucks for 37 games in 2017-18 after Jason Kidd was fired. Milwaukee went 21-16 under Prunty and lost in the first round of the playoffs.