Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has a lot of work to do.
After suffering a fifth straight first-round playoff exit when they were swept by the Miami Heat and then firing coach Nate McMillan, the Pacers are preparing to head in a different direction, beginning with a thorough coaching search.
“We want to be better than getting swept in the playoffs, and when you look at the playoffs, I wanted to have some hope that we could win a game. And if you really look at those games, and we’ve studied those games again, again I take that responsibility,” Pritchard said during a Zoom call with reporters Monday. “It’s going to be easy to point the finger, and I’m not. I take full responsibility.”
Pritchard said he could sense “relief” in McMillan after relieving him of his coaching duties after four seasons. McMilllan has the third-most wins (183) as a head coach in franchise history, but the Pacers were swept in the first round in each of the past two seasons.
“The coaching ranks in the NBA is ever changing, and I give Nate a ton of credit for instilling a hard-nosed, tough culture here. And again, I really believe that he’ll get another job and get another job quickly if he wants to,” Pritchard said. “And boy we would do anything we can to help him do that.”
The Pacers will consider a college coach or an established veteran, but the focus is on finding someone with the ability to connect with younger players. The team has leaned on former Pacers player David West, who is also a mentor to T.J. Warren, for advice, in addition to Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard.
Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in the final year of his contract, will be a Pacers target should he become available, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“We’ve seen some of the hirings over the last few years, and they’re coming from all over the board,” Pritchard said. “The way I’ve set up this process is, we want to start with a big pool, then get down smaller and smaller. I don’t want to rule that out. If there’s an existing coach who has experience, who knows how to build a program, but maybe has a little mark or has something he needs to improve on.
“… I believe this, that the head coach is critically important, but nowadays, that second, third and fourth coach almost are more important. So how they build out their structure and their coaching staff is critical.”