The Pacers fired now-former head coach Nate McMillan on Wednesday, two days after Indiana exited the postseason with a first-round sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat.
While the move might make sense – McMillan joined the Pacers in 2016, and proceeded to lose in the first round of the playoffs in all four seasons, including three sweeps – the Pacers just recently extended McMillan’s contract, making the timing slightly little unexpected.
It also complicates the Sixers’ current head coaching search, at least a bit: you can add the Pacers to the loaded list of teams looking for new head coaches this offseason.
The list now includes the Sixers, the Pacers, the Nets, the Pelicans, and the Bulls. Chicago isn’t an enticing destination right now, but the Nets and Pelicans are clear-cut better jobs than the Sixers, and while the Pacers don’t have the market or the star talent that the Sixers do, they also don’t have the Sixers’ headache of a roster to inherit.
The Sixers have already been linked to candidates like Tyronn Lue, Jay Wright, Dave Joerger, and their own assistant Ime Udoka, and could also have interest in guys like Stan Van Gundy or former Sixers associate head coach and current Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. (You can, of course, now add McMillan to the list of potential Sixers candidates.)
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, D’Antoni will be a Pacers target:
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
Are the Pacers decidedly a better situation than Philly? Not necessarily. The Sixers have more talent, the wider national appeal, and a much clearer path to contention. But the Pacers are still in the East, they have young star talent like Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, and they come without the brutal salary cap situation that Sixers general manager Elton Brand is currently dealing with.
While there are plenty of bodies to fill the empty coaching jobs, not all candidates are built equally. You can bet the Sixers would rather have championship-winning coach like Lue than a middle-of-the-road name like Joerger, but the current situation in Philly doesn’t have the same appeal it would’ve two years ago.
Which is why they might be better-suited turning their search towards guys with Philadelphia ties, rather than pursuing the most-sought-after names available. Perhaps someone like Ime Udoka, who is well-regarded around the league and seems ready for a head coaching shot, would be a smart choice.
The Sixers still have young, all-world talents in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but if they find themselves on the outside looking in when coaching hires are made over the next few weeks/months, they won’t have anyone to blame but themselves.
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