“I hope it’s obvious but these decisions are never easy,” Fields said, via Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A lot of thought went into it, a lot of conversations, and it’s something that we’ve obviously arrived and I just first and foremost want to say thank you to Nate.
“He has done an incredible job for us — taking over as interim after Lloyd Pierce, getting us to the Eastern Conference finals. The man has over 750 wins in his career. That is an unbelievable achievement for him. Just getting to know him over the past few years, the amount of respect and honor that that man has, even in hearing the news is something that I’m honored to say that I was glad to have worked with him here.”
That wasn’t enough to save McMillan’s job, of course. The Hawks (29-30) sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and entered the All-Star break coming off losses to the Hornets and Knicks.
“As of late, my pulse and my read on this team and the changes that we’re making and things that we want to implement, felt like this was the the time to make a change,” Fields said, via Williams. “And that was a sense that I’ve gotten some that I’ve read on and this was my decision and it’s something that I don’t just put on Nate.”
McMillan, 58, compiled a 99-80 record in his two-plus seasons with the Hawks, leading them to the conference finals in his first attempt. But they were eliminated in the first round last season and look to be on a similar path this year.
Fields took over as GM for Travis Schlenk, who was moved to an advisory role in December. Fields indicated he had been considering making a move on McMillan for a little while.
“It’s been on my radar, honestly, for the probably the last month or so,” Fields said, via Williams. “You never want to put too much stock into any one or two particular games. But at Charlotte and the Knicks game were definitely strong indicators for me in just getting a sense of our players. And it’s something that I wanted to make sure to wait till (Tuesday) to do it. I didn’t want to have any distractions with people while they’re on break. And I also wanted to make sure that I did this face-to-face with Nate.”
Lead assistant Joe Prunty will take over as interim coach. Prunty has held the same role with the Bucks.
But despite the change, the Hawks’ issues remain, wrote Zach Harper and Shams Charania of The Athletic.
“At some point, the Hawks must figure out how to get star guard Trae Young and company to focus for an entire season,” Harper and Charania wrote. “They needed a turnaround halfway through last season,decided when they even admitted it was difficult to get up for regular season games.”
We have more on Fields, McMillan and the Hawks in our latest batch of East Notes here.