In introducing Nate McMillan as the team's new head coach at a press conference on Monday, the Indiana Pacers subtlety revealed the qualities of the voice they were searching for along with what they are hoping it will say.
"We're here today to announce our new coach of the Indiana Pacers," said Bird. "I'm really excited to have Nate (McMillan) to be a part of this. I didn't know until a few days ago whether he was really interested in being a head coach again, but after finding out that he was going to Sacramento, in search of a head coaching job, it made it pretty easy for me to ask (General Manager) Kevin Pritchard, (who) had him in Portland, a lot of questions and spent a lot of time with Kevin and found out that we had our man right here."
McMillan continues on in his new position with the Pacers after having served as former head coach Frank Vogel's top assistant the past three seasons. While there was plenty of outside criticism from those who believed that nothing new can come from the familiar, McMillan pointed to the lessons he learned from his past coaching experience as evidence of how he could be a new voice for the Pacers moving forward.
"Some of us coaches who were coaching back at that time (2005), they call us old school," McMillan explained. "And there is a lot of old school in me. I won't lose all of that, but I do understand that you do have to adapt to this generation of players, they call them the millenials, as far as how you communicate with them, prepare them, and that's something that we started talking about when I was with USA basketball."
His seven years of experience as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski with Team USA is something the team's fresh hire believes will help him better "adapt" to today's NBA, a buzzword along with "communication" which both Bird and McMillan referred to repeatedly.
"I think communication is one of the most important things," Bird noted. "Every player wants to know where they stand at all times, why they're not playing, why they get taken out of games at certain times, but I think Nate's ability to handle all of that, he's proved it in Portland and proved it in Seattle that he can do that."
Jordan Hill's end of the season comments to the Indy Star's Candace Buckner, in which he indicated that the rationale behind removing him from the 10-man rotation was never made clear to him, evidences that players were not always fully aware of what was expected of them.
"Yeah, it's tough, but I can't do anything but be supportive and a great teammate. Especially when I feel like I did pretty good this season," Hill told the Indy Star. "Just to be out of the rotation like that is definitely frustrating, especially when you don't know what happened or what you did. If you did anything wrong; if you don't think you did anything wrong, nobody told you you did anything wrong. So now I'm like: ‘Question mark! Question mark! Question mark!' What happened?' "
How exactly the team and their new coach will "adapt" moving forward is something McMillan said will be dictated by the fit of the pieces with which he is given to work via the draft and free agent market rather than by predetermined decisions.
"I'm sure Larry (Bird) and I and his staff will get together this week, and we'll look at the players we have currently on the roster," McMillan explained. "The draft is coming up, and we'll have to look at selecting a player in that draft. And then the free agent market. In terms of looking at all of that, then you kind of hone in on the system that you want to put in place, so to say how my style or what style (we'll use), I think that's based on the roster that I have."
Though McMillan was unwilling to fully commit to a brand of basketball (beyond noting that he views Myles Turner's strength as being at the five position), he did go on record with his expectations for the on-court product next season.
"We're going to respect the game. We're going to respect our opponents. We're going to respect that name on the front of the jersey," Indiana's new head coach forcefully posited. "What I mean by 'respect the game' is that you mentally and physically prepare yourself to go out and play hard every single night."
Consistent effort was something that appeared to be lacking at specific points throughout the 2015-16 season. Such as the game prior to the All-Star break wherein the Pacers surrendered 117 points on their home floor to the Charlotte Hornets. When Larry Bird announced that the team would not be retaining Frank Vogel as head coach, he specifically mentioned the league's mid-season pause as the point in which he first began considering the possibility of making a coaching change. Indiana's embarrassing home loss to the Orlando Magic, who scored 56 points in the paint and held the Pacers to a measly 15-point fourth-quarter, gave off similar lackadaisical vibes.
"You're not always going to play well, but you can always give the effort." Bird mentioned while explaining what stood out to him about McMillan. "And I think Nate will get that out of them."
When Larry Bird decided not to bring back Frank Vogel, what it was that was lacking in the former head coach's voice was shrouded in mystery. In emphasizing McMillan's willingness to adapt to the modern NBA while still maintaining an old school approach to accountability, the team pulled back the curtain.