May 16, 2016, 10:19 am
The Indiana Pacers have officially named Nate McMillan their new head coach.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) May 16, 2016
McMillan has a career record of 478-452 (.514) as a head coach. He previously coached five years in Seattle and seven in Portland. McMillan has also served as an assistant coach on the last two US Olympic squads and has been a Pacers assistant since 2013. He’ll step into the job looking to get the Pacers out of the first round next season.
For the Pacers, it’s a bit of an underwhelming choice. Frank Vogel was seemingly fired because Larry Bird and the Pacers wanted to play at a higher pace, but McMillan’s teams have often been among the slowest in the league. Despite lagging in pace, McMillan teams have managed strong offensive showings so it will be an interesting dynamic to watch. The Raptors could serve as a quick facsimile, as they managed a top 5 offense this season despite being 29th in pace.
Defensively, the Pacers will likely experience a drop off. Vogel is one of the game’s premier defensive coaches while McMillan’s teams have been middling or worse in terms of defensive rating. For a team that’s built up a strong defensive identity, it will be interesting to see how a new voice affects on-court performance considering the roster is currently tailored to the strengths of the previous coach. Obviously there will be some roster turnover, but Indiana’s core looks to be set for the near future.
Vogel’s team was undone by an insistence on all-bench lineups in the playoffs, which allowed the Raptors to quickly erase deficits or lengthen leads. While it’s fair to question why he kept turning to ineffective groups, it’s equally fair to lay blame at the feet of the front office that supplied him with an inadequate bench. It is also fair to question why Larry Bird would simply promote someone who was on the previous coaching staff if the Pacers truly need a new basketball philosophy.
For those hoping Indiana moves to an up-tempo style, don’t hold your breath unless McMillan has changed his offensive philosophy. He does provide a familiar, established voice that could serve the Pacers well. The team, as currently constructed, has two tremendous building blocks and some adequate complementary players. If they shore up some of the roster’s weaknesses, perhaps a new voice is all the Pacers need to get back to serious contention.