Communication and flexibility will be important as the Pacers begin their search for a new head coach, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard tells Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
The campus environment at Disney World gave Pritchard and GM Chad Buchanan a chance to spend more time than usual around their players and get an inside look at where they believe the franchise is headed. That experience led to the decision to replace Nate McMillan.
“As we were going through the playoffs, it was more challenging to see our players and our staff have felt like, at times, we look defeated,” Pritchard said. “That is something I don’t ever want to see on our players’ face. We want to be better than getting swept in the playoffs and when you look at the playoffs, I wanted to have some hope that we could win a game.”
McMillan, who had a year left on his contract, had been with the franchise since 2013 when he was hired as an assistant coach. He ranks fourth among Pacers coaches in career wins, but Agness notes that this season was difficult for the entire organization.
Indiana began the season with nine new players on its roster, including first-round pick Goga Bitadze, who had to miss Summer League because of a work visa issue. There were constant questions about injured guard Victor Oladipo, who didn’t return until late January, and Pacers players had nearly 200 total games missed due to injuries. The chaos of the hiatus and the restart led to another playoff sweep, the third in the past four years, which sealed McMillan’s fate.
Pritchard said he could see “some relief” in McMillan’s eyes when he broke the news.
“As we end the season, it feels like the last couple years, it’s ended with a bad taste in our mouth,” Pritchard said. “And for me, that is something that there had to be some changes. I take full responsibility.”
Indiana will look for a coach with a more creative offensive scheme and a willingness to take chances with young players. Agness notes that T.J. Leaf‘s season was virtually wasted with just 28 games played. Edmond Sumner wasn’t used in Games 2 and 3 against Miami, while Bitadze didn’t play at all in the postseason as Tyler Herro, who was taken five picks earlier, averaged 16.5 PPG in the series.
“Sometimes you have to make some sacrifices,” Pritchard said. “You have to play some players in the regular season to develop, and then ultimately be prepared more for the playoffs than you were for the regular season. And so that’s sort of out-of-the-box thinking is something that we we desperately need.”