Ordering pizza has its challenges for Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce
West Coast trips aren’t complete without a sausage and pepperoni from Round Table
LAS VEGAS — One of the first things new Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce did when he arrived at the Las Vegas Summer League was check in with his pregnant wife, Melissa. Before the Pierces got off the phone, she had one important question for him.
“The last thing she asked was, ‘When are you going to get your Round Table?’ ” Pierce said.
One of Pierce’s hobbies while out West is securing a sausage and pepperoni pizza from Round Table Pizza, even if he has to go out of his way to get it.
Round Table is a chain primarily in California with locations in Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Round Table uses the slogan “The Last Honest Pizza” because of its dough, made daily from scratch, aged cheddar cheese mixed with provolone and whole milk mozzarella, and fresh vegetables cut at the restaurant.
Pierce grew up in San Jose, California, where pizza chains such as Domino’s, Mountain Mike’s, Little Caesars and Straw Hat Pizza were within delivery distance of his home. He described Straw Hat Pizza as the “hangout spot” that he and his fellow Yerba Buena High School students went to after basketball and football games. Students from rival Andrew Hill High School frequented the closest Round Table, and Pierce said there were “a lot of fights in that parking lot.”
Despite the risk that came with going to the local Round Table, Pierce never wavered in his love for the pie.
“Round Table Pizza was always better,” Pierce said. “It’s the crust. Baked crust that is different. It’s not like the New York flat style with all that extra bread on the back. Round Table is almost like flat baked bread, especially when you eat it warm. You get a fresh meal of baked bread with sauce.”
Pierce posts pictures of his favorite pizza on Instagram. He smiled last week before snapping a photo of an extra-large pepperoni and sausage pizza at Round Table in Las Vegas. He will only eat it hot and fresh and does not like cold pizza.
“We only eat pepperoni and sausage at my house,” Pierce said. “That was the one. If you’re going to eat it, it was going to be pepperoni and sausage. If my mom and sister ordered one right now, it would be pepperoni and sausage. They don’t do anything else.”
Pierce could easily get Round Table when he was playing and coaching at Santa Clara University since there was one across the street from the school. A Santa Clara No. 11 jersey worn by Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash, who shared a backcourt with Pierce, is hanging at that location. Pierce could also get Round Table in Oakland, California, when he was an assistant coach and player development coach with the Golden State Warriors.
It became a challenge, however, for Pierce to get his pizza during his stints as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Philadelphia 76ers. Round Table does not ship its pizza because of food safety concerns, according to its website. So Pierce makes the drive on road trips out West to satisfy his Round Table itch. He said it’s toughest to get in Los Angeles because of the traffic and distance to the location.
There is a Round Table in Sacramento, California, that knows Pierce well.
“When I call in my order in Sacramento, they always say, ‘Are you still staying at …’ That is my hotel address, since they have me in the system,” Pierce said with a laugh.
Pierce has tried deep-dish pizza in Chicago and New York-style in the Big Apple that co-workers have pushed on him.
“I tell them it’s all right, but you need to try Round Table,” Pierce said.
There is no Round Table in Atlanta, where Pierce landed his first head coaching job with the Hawks, but he wants to show the same loyalty to his new city as he does to his beloved pizza.
Pierce has thrown out the first pitch at an Atlanta Braves game and attended Atlanta Falcons camp, a WNBA Atlanta Dream game and two soccer matches for Atlanta United FC of MLS. Pierce also got a taste of the local flavor at an Anita Baker concert in Atlanta the day before he was announced as head coach.
The Hawks’ hashtag is #TrueToAtlanta. Pierce said making the rounds in Atlanta is important to learn about the community and to truly become a part of it.
“Part of trying to understand what that means is getting several people’s definition of what ‘True to Atlanta’ meant,” Pierce said. “In the city, the first thing you hear is, ‘Welcome to Atlanta’ from every single person when you meet. ‘True to Atlanta’ is our hashtag and our mantra. It is more about being a pillar in the community and being a person from Atlanta that knows what it is all about. People love the city who grew up there; they love giving back to the community.
“Me going out from a sporting standpoint was more about getting to know the fan base in the city and how they are getting to know different teams and how they take to them, seeing how the other fan bases take to the teams in Atlanta. It was also a way of connecting myself to the rest of the Atlanta sporting community.”
Pierce inherited a Hawks roster filled with youth and inexperience. He said he understands patience will be needed to rebuild the team. Atlanta has an exciting newcomer in former Oklahoma guard Trae Young, the fifth pick in the 2018 NBA draft. The All-American averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists and nailed deep 3-pointers as a true freshman with the Sooners. Young wears No. 11, just like his basketball idol Nash, Pierce’s former backcourt mate.
While Young will have pressure to live up to his college hype, Pierce said it won’t come from the Hawks’ coaching staff.
“He is like a little brother,” Pierce said. “Always a ‘yes sir, no sir’ kind of a guy. When you talk to him, it is like he is hearing it for the first time and he is real receptive to information. Very coachable. Smart. He knows the game and is trying to figure out how to play on this level. Every time you tell him something, you can see his wheels start spinning. It’s almost like he’s thinking, ‘Oh, I never thought about that’ every time you speak to him.
“The biggest thing is to relax. He is going to probably get more pressure … because he is Trae Young. There is no pressure from us. Everybody is already critical of Trae because his comparisons are greater. He has been compared to Stephen Curry and Steve Nash. He was the rock star of college basketball last season. He is going to have criticism. But from our standpoint is the endgame. Can he get better this season? How long will that take so he can become something special?”
When the Hawks make trips out West, expect Pierce to get a hot slice of pepperoni and sausage for himself and his team.
“It can be heavy after a game, so I am going to try to get it for the team a day before games at Sacramento and Golden State. And it has to be hot,” Pierce said.