Shortly after the Pacers parted ways last month with Nate McMillan, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard spoke about wanting the team’s head coaching search to “start with a big pool, then get down smaller and smaller.” Based on reports this week, it sounds like Pritchard is delivering on that promise.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski identified 14 initial candidates for the Pacers’ head coaching job. He later added a 15th, reporting that former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups is also receiving consideration.
Pritchard and the Pacers will be seeking a coach who has a “modern approach” to the game and an ability to connect with younger players. Even with that criteria in mind, it’s hard to know which of the team’s initial candidates may make the strongest impression.
A number of the candidates being interviewed by the Pacers – including David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbetts, Will Hardy, Becky Hammon, Stephen Silas, Jamahl Mosley, Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, and Pat Delany – are experienced assistants who have interviewed for other head coaching jobs. It’s possible one of them will stand out during the process and make the Pacers comfortable with hiring a first-time head coach.
Other assistants on Indiana’s list, including Charles Lee, Chris Quinn, and Dan Craig, may be a bit more under the radar, having not been linked to many – or any – head coaching jobs in the past, so they should probably be considered dark-horse candidates.
Dave Joerger and Jacque Vaughn are the two candidates who have previously held head coaching jobs. Joerger’s on-court results in Memphis and Sacramento were actually pretty solid, but he clashed at times with players and executives during those stops. Vaughn, meanwhile, overachieved with a depleted Brooklyn team this summer in Orlando, but was passed over by the Nets for their permanent job.
Billups is a wild card in the Pacers’ process. According to Wojnarowski, people around the league have long believed that the former Pistons guard would land a significant role with an NBA organization due to his leadership style and “basketball savvy.” But he has never even served as an assistant, so it remains to be seen if the Pacers would be comfortable rolling the dice on him.
Another wild card is current Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who was the first name connected to Indiana on the day the team fired McMillan. D’Antoni still has a job, and GM Daryl Morey recently spoke about wanting to retain the veteran coach.
However, D’Antoni’s contract is up, and if his Rockets are dispatched by the Lakers in Game 5 on Saturday with a fourth straight loss, it would end the season on a sour note. It’s possible he and the Rockets wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about a new deal at that point, freeing him up to join a team like the Pacers, who would surely welcome his free-wheeling offense.
What do you think? Is there a candidate on the Pacers’ current list who stands out to you as an obvious choice? Are there any candidates not on their list that you think they should be considering? Who do you expect to become Indiana’s next head coach?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!