In a surprising move Wednesday, the Indiana Pacers have fired coach Nate McMillan.
“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).”
Official Statement: pic.twitter.com/l9kMqiYEXh
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) August 26, 2020
The team said it will begin a search for a new coach immediately and one name is potentially already on the radar. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni — who is in the final year of his deal — will be a target for the Pacers should he become available.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni — in the final year of his contract — will be an Indiana target should he become available, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
The move is a shocking one considering McMillan and the Pacers had agreed to a contract extension on Aug. 12. Indiana made the 2020 playoffs as a No. 4 seed, but it was swept 4-0 in the first round by the Miami Heat. McMillan’s firing comes just two days after the Pacers lost 99-87 in Game 4.
He was named coach of the Pacers in 2016 and had yet to post a losing season with the team, winning at least 42 games in every season. He has compiled a 183-136 record with Indiana, and ranks third in Pacers’ franchise history in career wins as a coach.
Indiana played through the Orlando season restart without All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, who left the NBA campus to treat a plantar fasciitis injury in his left foot. All-Star guard Victor Oladipo participated in six of the Pacers’ eight seeding games while working his way back from a knee injury.
The loss to Miami on Monday sealed a second straight first-round sweep and the team’s third in four years — the only best-of-seven series sweeps in the franchise’s NBA history. They’ve lost a franchise-record nine consecutive playoff games, too.
Jeremy Lamb, who played well while replacing Oladipo in the starting lineup, and again after Oladipo returned in late January, also was not available in the bubble because of a season-ending left knee injury suffered three weeks before the season was stopped by COVID-19.
Oladipo’s contract expires after next season and he will be up for payday. The Pacers gave big man Myles Turner a four-year, $80 million deal before the 2018-19 season and Sabonis signed a four-year extension that could pay out as much as $85 million in October. Indiana also acquired guard Malcolm Brogdon in a sign-and-trade deal from Milwaukee, a deal that gives Brogdon $85 million over four years.
McMillan was in his third stint as an NBA coach, previously serving as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics (1999-2005) and Portland Trail Blazers (2005-12). He was an associate head coach for the Pacers from 2013-16 before being promoted to coach.
He is 661-588 all-time in the regular season and 17-36 in the playoffs in his career (including a 3-16 playoff mark with Indiana). He has gotten out of the first round once in his career, when the 2004-05 Sonics reached the Western Conference semifinals.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.