The Atlanta Hawks suffered another embarrassing blowout loss on national television last night. Injuries and shooting woes were mostly to blame for the lopsided game. In our opinion, Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was limited in what he could have done differently last night.
However, that does not mean McMillan is without blame for the way the first 25 games of the season have gone for Atlanta. The team's offensive system is a trainwreck, the rotations are questionable, and cracks are beginning to form in the locker room.
McMillan is the NBA's equivalent of a wartime president. The veteran coach's steady hand is perfect when a young team is rattled. But his inflexible methods also place a ceiling on his teams.
It is still way too early to make a coaching change. Plus, it is hard to imagine Hawks governor Tony Ressler putting two head coaches on his payroll while actively dodging the luxury tax. But if Atlanta's problems worsen and the organization has to make its second in-season coaching change in two years, we have put together the list of top candidates.
Pros: Frank Vogel has a proven track record of winning. He has guided three teams to the Conference Finals and won a ring with the Los Angeles Lakers during the turbulent 2020 NBA season. Atlanta would not have to worry about its newfound defensive identity falling to the wayside either.
Cons: Vogel prefers an up-tempo style of play that revolves around ball movement, which is great. But that was not always the case in Los Angeles, as the offense slowed down tremendously toward the end of his tenure.
Why It Would Work: Vogel has experience managing personalities and enticing star players to buy into his system. Without the weight of Los Angeles and LeBron James bearing down on him, Vogel could thrive in a new environment.
Pros: Quin Snyder was part of Mike Budenholzer's legendary coaching staff before building a regular-season machine in Utah. During his tenure with the Jazz, Snyder took a modern approach to offense without sacrificing anything on defense (it does help that he had perennial DPOY Rudy Gobert).
Cons: It's no secret that Snyder's teams in Utah had limited success in the playoffs. His intense coaching style could quickly become overbearing in Atlanta.
Why It Would Work: The Trae Young/Clint Capela pairing is not that dissimilar to the Donovan Mitchell/Rudy Gobert combination that Snyder managed well in Utah. In fact, Atlanta's roster is more malleable than what Snyder had to work with previously.
Pros: Whoever coaches the Atlanta Hawks must develop a strong rapport with Trae Young. Former NBA veteran point guard Sam Cassell would undoubtedly work well with Young. Cassell has been an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers, and Milwaukee Bucks over the past 13 years.
Cons: Cassell does not have any experience as a head coach (yet).
Why It Would Work: Cassell comes from a strong coaching tree but is still young enough to relate to players who grew up watching him win three NBA Championships.
Pros: Charles Lee is young, energetic, and possesses a deep understanding of Xs and Os. Lee is the associate head coach on Budenholzer's coaching staff in Milwaukee and is credited with helping design the team's offense.
Cons: Lee is still building a resume. He never played in the NBA and has no experience as a head coach.
Why It Would Work: At 38 years old, Lee is at most one generation older than his players. He has coaching experience in Atlanta (with Budenholzer) and will soon be one team's savvy next hire in the future.
Pros: Yes, another coach from the Budenholzer coaching tree. Kenny Atkinson built a well-oiled machine in Brooklyn before it all went up in smoke and sage with the arrival of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Hawks fans have pined for a coach capable of building a legitimate player-development system. Not only can Atkinson create a winning culture, but no one questions his coaching style.
Cons: Atkinson only made the playoffs once in Brooklyn, and it resulted in a first-round exit.
Why It Would Work: Atkinson is a no-nonsense coach without the toxicity. He has spent the last 16 months serving as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. Maybe Atkinson can help Trae Young unlock his full potential and recreate Golden State's egalitarian offense in Atlanta.
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