To that end, according to recent reports a handful of candidates have emerged to replace Nate McMillan as the Pacers’ head coach. There are still other candidates who might be considered dark horses. By me. Let’s examine the list of potential new head coaches for YOUR Indiana Pacers:
Dave Joerger, former head coach of the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies
Joerger was good enough to claw his way up from being a semi-pro assistant in the arctic hinterlands somewhere to become a two-time NBA head coach. That’s really good! Not good enough, though, to not get fired from each of those jobs in somewhat short order. That’s very not good! “Joerger” is Icelandic for “Peter Principle,” it seems.
Chauncey Billups, former Detroit Pistons point guard
This is the safe pick, relatively speaking. Or as “safe” as hiring someone with no coaching experience can be—that is what NBA teams are doing now, apparently. Whatever. Most people think he will probably be the Pacers’ pick. I am not looking forward to the ten billion think pieces re-litigating the “Malice in the Palace,” which Billups was a part of. If he hires Ben Wallace as an assistant, though, we riot.
Red Panda, world’s foremost entertainer and probably the next pope
She will likely not be the Pacers’ new head coach, but not for the reasons you’d think. No, she is too good for this city, frankly, or any other city for that matter. She cannot be tied down to one singular address. (Unless it is the Vatican, I suppose.) No, she must be free to ride the jet streams of her own one-wheeled magic, inspiring God Himself while kicking a thousand cereal bowls onto her head. That doesn’t mean the Pacers shouldn’t interview her, though.
Mike D’Antoni, former head coach of every basketball team in North America EXCEPT the Pacers, almost
D’Antoni is fine, really. He’s the corporate choice. He is where you finally decide to go when a group of co-workers can’t agree on a place to eat and everybody’s collective blood sugar is getting low. In a world of cool indie bistros and rad Jamaican joints on the seedy side of town, he is the O’Charley’s in front of the mall.
Jacque Vaughn, former head coach of the Orlando Magic
He’s fine too, I suppose. He is also a corporate choice, albeit slightly less so. Equally uninspiring.
Ed Sahm, Indianapolis restaurateur/silent guardian/watchful protector
Like Billups, he also has no NBA coaching experience. Unlike Billups or anyone else up for the Pacers job, Ed and his group have been working tirelessly and selflessly to help this city through the pandemic in whichever ways they can. Think about it: his late-game adjustments and set-calls would be no worse than McMillian’s. And the Pacers’ “Come to Our House” Thanksgiving dinner for disadvantaged families would be exponentially more spectacular.
Becky Hammon, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach
This is the smart pick…on paper. Any human being who basketball Gandhi/America’s dad Gregg Popovich trusts as his first lieutenant is “the smart pick.” But NBA seasons are not played on paper, and archaic norms die hard. It may be the smart pick, but it is certainly not the easy pick.
In the New Yorker’s 2018 profile of Hammon, Popovich said about her potential hire as a head coach that “it’s going to take somebody who has some guts, some imagination, and is not driven by old standards and old forms.”
You know who showed some guts and imagination when they hired the NBA’s first female assistant general manager two years ago? The Pacers, when they quietly hired Kelly Krauskopf. They were not driven by old standards nor old forms then, and they did not do it for publicity, nor wokeness points on Twitter. Like every other NBA front office person, you rarely (if ever) read about her now. She is just doing her job that the Pacers felt she was qualified to do.
Hammon is who the Pacers will choose, I believe, not just because the Pacers have proven to be the hypothetical franchise described by Popovich. Mainly, it’s because she’s the person most qualified for the job.
Whether she can do the job well or not is another discussion, for another time. Hopefully not next September, though, when things (knock on wood) will have returned to normal and we won’t need to soothe ourselves by talking about the NBA.