Rick Carlisle will have another former head coach by his side in his return to Indiana.
It didn’t take long for the Pacers to start filling out Rick Carlisle’s coaching staff. After introducing the new bench boss on Wednesday and being linked in rumors to former Golden State Warriors assistant Jarron Collins and former New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale, who reportedly turned down a more lucrative offer from the Pacers to rejoin LeBron James in Los Angeles, Indiana is finalizing a deal to hire former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Per Woj, Pierce will be Carlisle’s top assistant. By comparison to last season, when Nate Bjorkgren’s staff was comprised only of former or first-time assistants, Pierce’s addition provides the Pacers with another familiar face from the head-coaching ranks, who is known for his leadership as well as making an impact both on and off the court, particularly with regard to racial injustice, police brutality, and voting rights.
“When you look at NBA staffs, the head coach has one thing usually he does really well and then you build out the rest of the staff that helps him,” Pritchard said while answering questions from the media in the wake of Bjorkgren’s dismissal.
“Having a group of assistant coaches that have experience and success is critically important to have a great organization,” he added. “From one to four on the bench is super important.”
Given that Pierce is also an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s Olympic coaching staff, at least one Pacer should already be familiar with the newest staff member, after Pierce coached Myles Turner on Team USA at the FIBA World Championships in 2019.
Of course, the main question with regard to Pierce is why things went sour in Atlanta, since the Hawks, admittedly with the benefit of better health (at least in spurts), surged at the end of the season, going 27-11 under former Pacer head coach Nate McMillan, who currently has Atlanta competing in the Eastern Conference Finals, despite taking over when the team was six games below .500.
That said, Pierce isn’t being hired to be the head coach of the Pacers; he’s being hired, as Kevin Pritchard indicated, to balance out the strengths and weaknesses of Rick Carlisle, with a reputation for player development among both guards and bigs and past experience coordinating Philadelphia’s defense as an assistant to Brett Brown.
In 2017-18, the Sixers ranked third in points allowed per 100 possessions when Pierce was there before taking the Hawks job the next season, when they slipped to 13th. Prior to his dismissal at the beginning of March, Atlanta ranked 7th in fast-break points allowed — which was an area of concern for the Pacers over the back-end of last season, as the team struggled to contain opponents in transition, where defense starts.
As for the rest of the staff, Collins reportedly left the Warriors in search of head-coaching or associate-head-coaching opportunities, which are no longer available with the Pacers.
According to Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype, former Butler player and current Charlotte Hornets assistant Ronald Nored is also a potential candidate.