INDIANAPOLIS – So much for the vote of confidence in giving Nate McMillan a contract extension.
Just two weeks after handing McMillan an extension through the 2021-22 season, the Indiana Pacers have fired their head coach.
The move comes after the Pacers were just swept by the Miami Heat, a series in which they had led for a total of 11 seconds in the fourth quarters of the four games.
“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 in a team release. “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).”
While Wednesday’s announcement was surprising from a timing standpoint, there’s plenty of evidence as to why this was the right decision for the Pacers.
Now 16 seasons into his NBA career as a head coach, McMillan has defined himself across three different franchises: a better than average regular season coach, who’s teams routinely falter in the postseason.
McMillan teams have now lost 6 straight first-round series and he has a 1-8 career series record in the playoffs.
The Pacers are 3-16 in their last 19 playoff games, all under McMillan. They’ve lost 9 straight playoff games, easily the longest drought in team history. While 20 other NBA teams have won at least one playoff series since 2014, the Pacers have gone 0-4.
Personnel losses have definitely hurt the Pacers (injuries to Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis), but they’ve achieved regular season success with those same issues, yet that hasn’t translated, at all to the postseason.
McMillan has coached 16 seasons in the NBA. He’s 661-588 (.529) in the regular season and 17-36 (.321) in the playoffs
In Wednesday’s press release from the Pacers, the team pointed out McMillan’s putrid playoff record.
Fair questions were there on McMillan teams continually performing poorly in the playoffs. Offensive innovation was a concern as well, with the Pacers not very open to adopting today’s NBA style of shooting more three-pointers. Indiana ranked last in the NBA this past season in three-point attempts and free throw attempts.
McMillan teams did often find success in the regular season, thanks to a high standard of effort night in and night out. While that was commendable, along with some individual growth for several Pacers, playoff basketball sees every team dialed in on a game-in-game-out business.
So, that advantage the Pacers see in Game 32 of the regular season is gone in the postseason.
The timing of this decision is still un-Pacers like.
Again, back on August 12th, the Pacers announced an extension for McMillan, sighting the consistent winning seasons he’s had amidst personnel losses.
Point guard Malcolm Brogdon publicly stated his backing of the decision to extend McMillan.
Clearly, the sweep by the Heat and possible issues extending past just a horrible playoff resume led to Herb Simon and Kevin Pritchard having a total change of heart.
For a franchise that often shies away from taking financial risks, this move clearly states the lack of postseason success over recent years, even with the injuries, is unacceptable.
In looking for a new head coach, the Pacers must find someone who is prepared to bring more offensive innovation to a team with playoff personnel.
For a team already dealing with normal NBA hurdles for smaller market teams, Indiana needs to create an advantage on the sidelines.
That was too often not the case in the playoffs, hence the reason the Pacers made this decision.