Indiana Pacers assistant Nate McMillan is expected to become the team’s next head coach, as was first reported Saturday night by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
The team is reportedly finalizing a deal to promote McMillan, 51, a top assistant to Frank Vogel the past three years, according to the report which cited unnamed league sources. Pacers president Larry Bird recently declined to renew Vogel’s contract, saying the team needed “a new voice.”
This would be McMillan’s third stint as an NBA head coach; he was with Seattle from 2000 to 2005 and Portland from 2005 to 2012. His teams reached the playoffs five times and he had a winning percentage of .514 (478-452).
His best season was his last in Seattle in 2004-05, when the SuperSonics finished 52-30 and first in the Northwest Division then reached the Western Conference semifinals. His best regular season was 54-28 with Portland in 2008-09, but the TrailBlazers were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
McMillan reportedly interviewed for the Pacers job late last week was offered the position, according to Wojnarowski.
Bird’s decision on Vogel came as a surprise to some considering the head coach was the franchise’s all-time leader in NBA wins with a 250-181 regular-season record and 31-30 in the playoffs. Vogel took the Pacers to the playoffs in five of his six seasons.
This past season, the Pacers were 45-37 and as a seventh seed pushed the second-seeded Toronto Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference playoffs’ opening round.
Bird’s explanation for not bringing Vogel back centered on the belief that NBA players tune out a coach after three years. It has also been reported that Bird wants a coach who will be able to make the Pacers’ small-ball, spread offense work.
Vogel proponents contend Bird didn’t give the head coach the necessary parts to thrive with small ball, hence the team was forced to shift back to a “smashmouth” lineup midway through the season.
The Pacers have one of the NBA’s best players in three-time All-Star forward Paul George and an emerging talent in forward-center Myles Turner, who came on in the latter half of his rookie season. But the team doesn’t have a true point guard, shooting guards Monta Ellis and George Hill are essentially the same player, and the squad lacks size inside which usually translated to being out rebounded.
Indiana has been one of the NBA’s best defensive teams in recent years, but slipped to eighth in points allowed at 100.5 per game last season after finishing tied for third at 97 points allowed the previous season.
McMillan’s resume is consistent with being solid on defense, although Bird expects the Pacers to score more. Indiana ranked 17th in scoring at 102.2 points per game, an improvement from 24th at 97.3 points per game the previous season.
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