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Antonio Pierce is latest NFL Black head coach


A native of Compton

Antonio Piece has taken the helm of the Las Vegas Raiders. Just hours after Raiders owner Mark Davis fired head coach Josh McDaniel, Pierce became the interim head coach before being hired as full time head coach on Jan. 12. Pierce is the organization's third Black head coach, preceded by Hugh Jackson (2011) and Hall of Famer Art Shell–the league’s first Black head coach–who  guided the team twice before from 1990-1994 (in Los Angeles) and again from 2006-2007 (in Oakland).

Pierce, 45, is a native of Compton and grew up a Raiders fan. He was a frequent sight during Raiders games at the Coliseum during his high school days at Paramount High where he played linebacker. Pierce played in college at the University of Arizona and, after being signed as a free agent by the Washington Redskins in 2001, he played nine seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2007. Pierce’s hiring provides the Raiders with the league’s first all-Black leadership group in Sandra Morgan serving as team president, and Champ Kelly serving as general manager.

Pierce had been an assistant coach in the league for almost a decade, quickly working his way up the ranks and spent time working as an NFL television broadcast analyst. Ahead of the 2005 season, Pierce signed with the Giants and became a key cog in New York’s defense. His best individual season was in 2006 when he recorded a career high 139 tackles and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Pierce began his coaching career in 2014 at Long Beach Poly High, then onto Arizona State from 2018 to 20212, and finally the Raiders in 2022.

Pierce gained the admiration and confidence of Raiders players, having the team much more competitive in every game this past season after taking over as interim coach on Halloween night. He changed the culture and the vibe in the locker room as well on the sidelines in noting after the announcement he “earned” the job rather than “deserving” it. The team went 5-4 down the stretch, going an impressive 3-1 in the AFC West including a late-season win in Kansas City over the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. The Raiders finished the season at 8-9. The Raiders have had only two winning seasons and two playoff appearances–after the 2016 and 2021 seasons–since appearing in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.

“Enough is enough,” Pierce said after the upset victory over Kansas City on Christmas Day. “Our confidence level is still growing. We’re playing ‘next-man-up’ football. Team football. See it. Believe it. Go get it.”

Practically all Raiders players were early boosters of Pierce once he became interim head coach, among them All-Pros Davante Adams (wide receiver), Josh Jacobs (running back) and Max Crosby (defensive end). Adams said he’d “run through a wall for that man,” to Jacobs (a pending free agent) noting that Pierce would be a major factor in his returning to the team. Crosby went as far as to threaten to ask for a trade if Pierce were not hired as the head coach. Pierce reinvigorated the then-dour Raiders going as far as post-victory cigar celebrations while embracing the franchise’s storied history and garnering support from the front office, current and former players and fans alike.

Pierce and Kelly presented what could be called a “masterclass” after the season-finale victory over Denver in inviting to the game Marcus Allen, Mike Haynes, Charles Woodson, Richard Seymour, Jim Otto, Ted Hendricks, Jim Plunkett, Fred Biletenkoff and two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Flores to impart encouragement to Raiders players, coaches and staff. 

Former Raiders players chimed in on Twitter following Pierce’s hiring: “I didn’t know I could hold my breath that long!” Hall of Famer Tim Brown posted. “Congrats AP!! Let’s Go!”

Former Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck had this to say: “Congrats to my dude. They made a good choice.” Crosby summed it up in two words: “Let’s work!!”

Perhaps the biggest endorsement came from former New York Giants head coach Tom Caughlin, whom Pierce had address the team last season: “I could not be prouder of Antonio Pierce being named head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Coughlin told ESPN. “I’m excited for him, his family and the franchise. This is the team he grew up watching, and his belief in himself and in the players is why he is there. He is a good student of the game, a quick learner with a great attitude, and he is eager to get to work. The 2024 season just got a lot more interesting with him at the helm. Go get ‘em AP!”

Pierce and wife, Jocelyn, are parents to seven children. The family resides in Palos Verdes Estates. During the off-season, Pierce continues to offer a free local football camp for underserved youth in the Long beach/Compton area. Pierce participates in the “Read Across America” program and, in 2007, he received the “United Way Man of the Year” award bestowed by the Catholic Diocese of New York City.