Sport

Two weeks after announcing extension, Pacers fire coach Nate McMillan

The Pacers and coach Nate McMillan announced a contract extension two weeks ago.

Today, Indiana fired him.

Pacers release:

The Indiana Pacers announced Wednesday they have relieved head coach Nate McMillan of his coaching duties.

“On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “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 was rumored to be on the hot seat earlier this month. The extension quashed speculation. And maybe that’s all it was intended to do.

Because it’s not easy to see what changed in the last two weeks.

The Pacers lost to the Heat in the first round. With Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb injured and Victor Oladipo still trying to find his groove after returning from injury, that result wasn’t terribly surprising.

Granted, the context was somewhat disappointing. Indiana got swept. The Pacers didn’t adjust nearly as much as Miami. Indiana, though mostly competitive, didn’t play with ideal effort to the end.

Was that enough to fire McMillan?

McMillan did an excellent job this regular season and the prior two. But his teams kept fizzling in the playoffs. If the Pacers wanted someone to help the team take the next step, that’d be totally understandable. It’s just tough to square that plan with McMillan’s extension.

I wonder whether McMillan actually signed the extension (as opposed to merely agreeing to it). If he did, he’ll get a slight bump in payout.

Indiana’s offense too often stagnated under McMillan, especially in the playoffs. The Pacers didn’t generate enough 3-pointers, a staple of most efficient offenses.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni definitely could become available. His teams are typically good in those areas.

But Indiana is limited by its two-center configuration with Sabonis and Myles Turner. McMillan did a good job of making that tricky combination work.

Sabonis, Turner, Oladipo and Malcom Brogdon are all under contract next season. Are the Pacers open to shaking up their core? Or just their coach?

D’Antoni is excellent at coaching players who fit his system (which, as he has proven in Houston, is more malleable than some think). But without enough players who can fit, he has struggled. As currently constructed, Indiana might not be a great situation for him.