Pacers Fire Head Coach Nate McMillan

The Pacers have relieved Nate McMillan of his head coaching duties, the team announced today in a press release.

“On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. “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).”

The move comes as a surprise, since the Pacers just signed McMillan to a one-year contract extension earlier this month. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says (via Twitter) that “soft” extension involved a reworking of McMillan’s deal for 2020/21, with a team option added for ’21/22, so it sounds like Indiana didn’t cost itself much money by changing course just two weeks later.

McMillan, 56, guided the Pacers to a 183-136 (.574) record over the last four seasons, earning four consecutive playoff berths during that stretch. Indiana’s 45-28 (.616) mark this season represented the club’s highest winning percentage since 2013/14.

McMillan, who is well-respected around the NBA, had generally been lauded in recent years for maximizing the Pacers’ roster despite losing star forward Paul George – who requested a trade in 2017 – and dealing with a handful of major injuries, including the torn quad tendon that sidelined Victor Oladipo for a full year. The team’s quick playoff exit this season at the hands of the Heat came without injured starters Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb available.

However, that loss to the Heat represented Indiana’s fourth consecutive first-round exit, and there had been some chatter about a need to modernize the team’s offense, which ranked last in the NBA this season in three-point attempts per game (28.0). In an unusual move, the Pacers mentioned McMillan’s 3-16 postseason record in their announcement on his dismissal today, a signal that his lack of playoff success was a major factor in the club’s decision.

ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe noted on a podcast earlier this month that there had been speculation around the league in recent months about McMillan being on the hot seat in Indiana.

The Pacers will begin their search for a new head coach immediately, according to today’s announcement. They’ll be vying with the Nets, Sixers, Bulls, and Pelicans for the top candidates on the market, becoming the sixth team to launch a coaching search in 2020 (the Knicks are the only club to have completed the process so far).

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), current Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will become an Indiana target if Houston decides to make a coaching change of its own. The Pacers will also explore a pool of candidates they’d consider “program builders,” sources tell Woj (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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33 thoughts on “Pacers Fire Head Coach Nate McMillan

  1. Bc1219

    I don’t think this is the right move Ik they got swept but they’ve had injuries all year and they could potentially be a top team in the East when healthy

  2. natsfan3437

    At least he signed an extension and all money is guaranteed with nba contracts. He can take his time picking what team he wants to coach by far the best candidate on the market.

  3. petersdylan36

    I think this is the correct move.
    Since 2016 playoffs, the pacers made the playoffs each year.
    They have not made it out of the opening round.
    They got swept 3 times.
    The other two times they went 7 games but still couldn’t even win a playoff series.
    They have the talent but I look at this team and I’m pretty confident they are nothing more than what they are right now: a good team in the East.
    I’m not sure what they can even do to this roster to make it better.
    I feel they have reached their potential and may need to reset.

    • I think with the right coach and a few moves around the margins, the team could contend in the East next year. Oladipo, Brogden, and Warren are in their primes, while Sabonis and Turner are 23. The right coach will be able to help Sabonis/Turner develop without losing production from the rest of the starting five.

      Getting Jeremy Lamb back will help the bench a ton next year. Hopefully, they can add some depth so Jakarr Sampson isn’t relied upon in the playoffs.

    • Chris

      Lol so you fire the coach because even with injuries to his best players he’s still made them a good team in the East? I mean I’d like to think this team with Sabonis, Lamb and a healthy Oladipo don’t get swept. But it’s whatever. I’m not a Pacers fan. I’d rather be a playoff team than irrelevant any day

  4. I like Nate, but this is the right move for the franchise. He just doesn’t have an innovative enough offensive mind to get the most out of this time as currently constructed. He’s a good locker room coach though, and could be a good fit in the right situation.

    Hopefully the next coach will be a little more innovative on offense. The combination of Turner and Sabonis needs someone who can make the most out of their talents. With the right coach, plus adding some more depth, I think the Pacers could contend in the East next year.

  5. stevep-4

    Ridiculous. Whose wife was he folling around with, cuz that is about the only reason to dump him with this mediocre team. He got the most out of a just ok roster.

  6. hiflew

    This is why NBA coaches are basically a joke and the players are really running things. Yeah they got swept, but that is just 4 games. Show me any team that isn’t an all time great squad that didn’t ever lose 4 games in a row at some point. To me, the regular season record is far more important than playoff record, because playoffs are nothing but short series. The regular season record is more of an accurate accounting of how well a coach does because it is a larger sample size. I know that’s not how it really works, but it really should be.

    • and yet many view the regular season as just a preseason to the playoffs.

      You can claim all the regular season glory you like, but no one cares about how talented and great a regular season certain teams have had before flaming out in the playoffs.

      • hiflew

        So? Many view the Loch Ness monster as real too. That doesn’t make them correct.

    • boogz

      Nate’s coaching habits cant adjust to today’s style of play. The last 4 years, they’ve been swept 3x and never made it past 1st round.

      It’s time for a change. Already against the cap and no 1st rd draft pick this year. I expect Turner and Oladipo to get traded this off-season or during the draft.

    • nva84

      Wait are you serious with what you said? Theoretically speaking, say a coach had a regular season record of 242-99 but a playoff record of 3-20 and never got past the first round in 5 years, you think the team should still keep that coach? You can’t honestly believe that

      • nva84

        Also the playoffs are what make a great coach. Because with it being a shorter series, as you mentioned, you see which coaches make the proper adjustments to win and which ones get out coached

      • hiflew

        No I can’t honestly believe that because that is a completely theoretical record. Nothing even close to that has happened in the history of the NBA. Plus, I think your math is off as to the # of games in a season.

        As far as having a better record in the regular season, yes I can honestly believe that. Those 3 playoff wins in 4 years looks bad unless you consider that 4 teams in the NBA (Hornets, Knicks, Suns, Kings) have not even made the playoffs once in those 4 years and another in the Pistons that made it once, but didn’t win a game. There are also 7 other teams that won fewer playoff games than the Pacers in that timeframe. McMillan was at least a good enough coach to give them the chance to win those games while many other coaches sat at home trying to figure out how to get where McMillan was next year.

        • nva84

          Of course the numbers are wrong. Hence why I said “theoretically speaking”. Anyway I like McMillan but getting bounced 5 yrs in a row (or whatever it was) and not making it past the first round is going to get you fired. No matter what your regular season record is. Most teams hire a coach to get them to the Playoffs and ultimately win a championship. Not to have a great regular season record.

          • Curtisrowe

            I guess the issue though is the Pacers aren’t that good. Most would say they overachieved under MacMillan, not that they should have gone farther.

  7. phenomenalajs

    The coaching carousel is going to be wild. I think the Nets should just sign Jacque Vaughn. He’s earned it and we know KD and Kyrie rule the roost regardless of who the coach is.

  8. GoLandCrabs

    I thought it was weird how they didn’t hold Nate to the same standard they did Vogel. Guess they finally did.

  9. Dee42

    Ridiculous, I thought McMillan was Coach of the Year material this season. Getting a squad with no or a hobbled Oladipo and Brogdon missing games to the 4th seed was very impressive. What did they expect in playoffs with no Sabonis?

    • Some teams make a change just to make a change. It’s crazy there’s no consistency anymore. The owner or GM will fire the coach to take the focus off of the crap roster decisions.

      • Dee42

        Yeah like when Frank Vogel got the shaft in Orlando for not being able to play Vucevic, Biyombo and Ibaka in a line up together lol. Agreed, teams are always caught in the moment, not thinking of past or future.

        • I think the Pacers are thinking about the future. I like McMilan but I believe if he is your coach you are hard capped at being an above average regular season team and very little chance of ever getting past the second round.

    • x%sure

      What did they expect?— to not get swept and not look bad doing it. Close out the 3pt shooters.

  10. x%sure

    Called it, in a couple posts— after I predicted Indiana would be the only lower seed to win a series, ouch.
    (I also said Malone of Denver would go, but they came back and beat Utah yesterday behind… DJ Dozier?! Brett Brown, too, but he hardly counts. That was a “finally” firing.)

    Apparently most other people did not expect much from the Pacers; and this is typical. I often don’t either.
    Anyone remember the poster Swanson/PT18 from Indy? In long arguments he would claim Pacer fans aimed just to be good, did not aim to win titles. That can only go so far even if true. Pacer fans would still be disappointed with continual good seasons leading to high hopes, which have gotten dashed in early rounds.

    Mcmillan is said to have wanted the two-postmen structure but that is not the NBA trend.
    This did not work for the Blazers or Sixers either (This may be the FO’s fault… The setup required more depth there than what was allocated by the FOs. The Pacer FO did not draft there well, and they let Thad Young go and tried to go without forwards which hurt their ability to help out Kevin Turner.)

    The team appeared to give up a bit vs Miami, not a good sign. Turner may have just been exhausted, but was no help. Why did the Pacers insist on matching Miami’s intention of a fast pace?— bad strategy or no coaching control?
    The camp environment intensifies relationships, not good for authoritative HCs.

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