Well, that was anti-climatic.
After firing (sorry, I mean not renewing) their successful coach from the last 5.5 years, Frank Vogel, the Indiana Pacers went ahead and hired…wait for it…wait for it…
Yes, Frank Vogel’s former assistant coach, Nate McMillan.
Larry Bird tried to spin it in his press conference today by saying that he hadn’t even considered McMillan as a head coach until he was interviewed by Sacramento. McMillan played along and said that this was not an opportunity he had been looking for.
I call BS.
Everyone thought it was strange that the Pacers were firing Vogel. The official line was that the team needed a “new voice”. This is just speculation here, but I think it’s a little more than that. Some have suggested that it’s because Vogel did not, or could not, play the faster style that Bird had wanted the team to play, or to play Paul George as a Draymond Green-type power forward.
I’m starting to feel that there has to be more than that. Perhaps it’s as simple as Bird seeing that the team had started to tune Frank out or not put in enough effort on a night-to-night basis, something that was alluded to in McMillan’s press conference. Or maybe there’s something else behind the scenes we’re not privy to. Candace Buckner from the Indy Star did tweet something to the effect that Frank had become a “lame duck” coach, and that one player she spoke to said he “wasn’t floored” by the decision.
The whole thing didn’t make much sense when it happened. Vogel’s a universally praised coach widely considered to be in that top tier, or just below it. More importantly, there wasn’t a specific candidate that stood out as being an upgrade. The list that got passed around had all the same old names. There were a few out-of-the-box ideas, but none that could really get Pacers fans excited.
Adding fuel to the bizarre bonfire was Bird’s admission, several days after Frank’s departure, that he hadn’t started looking for a new coach yet. He ruled out his old teammate Kevin McHale from the outset, but that was about it. With the draft lottery coming up, and soon, the NBA draft itself, not to mention that other teams with coach vacancies were actively interviewing candidates, Bird’s seeming lack of initiative just didn’t smell right.
And now we know why.
It’s entirely possible that McMillan had no idea this was going down, but I doubt Bird would have fired Vogel without a replacement in mind. It’s likely, in fact, that Bird had made up his mind about McMillan months ago. It explains the lack of activity after Vogel’s firing and why the team — as far as we know — didn’t even interview or reach out to another candidate before announcing McMillan as coach.
I’m not going to go into McMillan’s track record and whether or not he’s likely to be successful. Even if I wanted to, it’s all over the place in terms of pace and offensive and defensive efficiency. Every team is different and we’ll just have to wait and see. I do hope, however, that Bird will try to bring in a new offensively-minded coordinator if he’s serious about the Pacers scoring more points.
Anyways, I just wanted to call BS on this whole charade.