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After agreeing to a contract extension earlier in August, the Indiana Pacers have announced that the franchise is parting ways with head coach Nate McMillan after four seasons in charge. The Pacers were swept by the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs. McMillan had a 183-136 coaching record with the Pacers, and made the postseason in each of the years he was head coach.
« On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team. This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction. Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years [in Indiana and Portland]. »
McMillan’s teams have never advanced past the first round, however, and have been swept in three of the four seasons he’s been in charge. McMillan had one year remaining on his contract, and the franchise and him agreed on a contract extension earlier this month to remain in charge. He’s never posted a losing record in four seasons, and Pritchard said at the time of the extension that McMillan’s track record « merits this extension. »
While it’s fair to look at McMillan’s record in the postseason and say that he isn’t the coach who can get this team past the first round, context certainly matters in this instance. In the last two seasons, the Pacers have been without significant players heading into the postseason. Last season, Victor Oladipo tore his quad which limited him to just 36 games. This season, Oladipo still only played 19 regular-season games, and didn’t look like himself at all in the postseason. Indiana was also down Domantas Sabonis in the playoffs this season as the All-Star forward was dealing with plantar fasciitis that required him to leave the bubble before the season ever resumed.
Perhaps, though, Indiana hopes that bringing in a new head coach will do the same for its franchise as it did for the Golden State Warriors when it fired Mark Jackson in 2014. The season after firing Jackson, the Warriors won an NBA championship as the team’s full potential was unlocked under Steve Kerr. That’s not to compare the talent on the Pacers roster to the dynasty that is the Warriors, but bringing in a new coach could at least help Indiana advance past the first round of the postseason.
As Indiana begins its search for a new coach, one name the team is targeting is current Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. D’Antoni is in the final year of his contract with the Rockets, and there has been speculation all season on if the team will retain him. If they don’t, then the Pacers — as well as many other teams with coaching vacancies — will try to bring him in.
The Indiana coaching job will be an attractive one on the market, as the franchise will hope to have all of its star players healthy for the 2020-21 season. Oladipo and Sabonis are both All-Stars, and the signing of Malcolm Brogdon last offseason paid off well this year as the versatile guard averaged a career high in points (16.5), assists (7.1) and rebounds (4.9). While this core is talented, though, it is an aging one, as Oladipo and Brogdon are both 28 and 27 respectively. The window for this team to win is right now, and Indiana will see if bringing in a new coach can help that, or if perhaps this group can’t get it done.
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