Nate McMillan got his Pacers’ teams to play hard and defend, something not all NBA coaches can pull off. The Pacers were never easy to play against. Their offense also was old school, with a slower pace and fewer threes than the direction the league is going, which is why McMillan was fired after the Heat eliminated the Pacers in the first round (McMillan’s teams made the playoffs every year in Indiana but never got out of the first round).
Who takes his place? The Pacers and GM Kevin Pritchard have begun a wide-ranging search for a new coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon and former Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger are among more than a dozen candidates who are expected to participate in a first round of virtual interviews for the Indiana Pacers coaching job, sources told ESPN.
The Pacers are embarking on a wide-ranging search that has included seeking permission to speak to several assistant coaches in the league, including the Spurs’ Hammon and Will Hardy, Miami’s Dan Craig and Chris Quinn, Dallas’ Jamahl Mosley and Stephen Silas, Milwaukee’s Darvin Ham and Charles Lee, Orlando’s Pat Delany, Minnesota’s David Vanterpool, Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka, Brooklyn’s Jacque Vaughn and Portland’s Nate Tibbetts.
That’s a good list — New Orleans and Chicago should have similar ones — and it gives Pritchard a chance to feel out what direction this moves into the later rounds of interviews.
Joerger is widely respected as a tactician around the league — other coaches list him as one of the guys with great game plans — and he built an up-tempo, modern offense around D’Aaron Fox in Sacramento. However, Joerger also has struggled to get along with the front office in each of his stops.
The Pacers’ coach list is also filled with quality assistant coaches who deserve a shot — the Bucks’ Ham, the Timberwolves’ Vanterpool, the Trail Blazers Tibbetts, and the 76ers Udoka are mentioned by a lot around the league as guys at the front of the line. The Spurs’ Hammon is right there with them, and would be the first female head coach in NBA history.
The Pacers have talent on the roster in Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and Myles Turner. The question becomes how to utilize them better and make the Pacers a threat in the East. There are a lot of coaches on that list who will have good ideas.