So it's official- Our Indiana Pacers decided to part company with Frank Vogel and are now conducting their first full scale search for a franchise Head Coach since they hired Jim O'Brien back in 2007. I'm known across the pond for being brutally honest, and the names that have been linked by Candace Buckner and Ken Berger amongst others so far have been far from inspiring. When you fire a well respected Head Coach, there needs to be a relatively impressive market to choose from, right now there isn't. Still, it's extremely hard to get information out of Indiana, so Bird could be hiding someone from us. Ignoring my conspiracy theories, let's take a look at whether the linked names would be good fits.
Nate McMillan: Quite frankly, this would be the worst appointment of any of the names linked to the job. Sure, he knows the franchise from the inside, but that doesn't really matter anymore. The Portland Trail Blazers were 30th in pace in his last full season in charge and after he left the assist ratio and efficiency rose. Seattle ranked bottom half in his last three seasons in charge on the pace chart. He definitely isn't an expert in producing a pace or space offence and this appointment would probably be one of desperation.
Jeff Hornacek: Hornacek is a great coach and his firing by Phoenix was absolutely terrible, he took the team from a 29th offensive rating all the way to 8th in his first season and he could have arguably won coach of the year. He designed great shooting sets and the offence looked pretty smooth considering they were expected to struggle. In that sense, he suits the Pacers as he could help enforce a pace or space offence. The worry I have is over his personality, Bird seems to want to add some toughness to the Coaching staff and he strikes me as a guy who walks on eggshells in order to avoid controversy- see his handling of the Morris Twins
Mark Jackson- Another guy who continues to get linked with every job under the sun, I question Jackson's fit for this roster. He's better than people give him credit for, but his offence in Golden State was 12th in efficiency which is poor when you consider the players he had at his disposal. On most timeouts, he delegated to his assistants such as Michael Malone and the result was often an isolation play for Stephen Curry. The players loved him, but right now the x's and o's are important for Indiana, this is a bad fit.
Mike D'Antoni- One of the most unfairly criticized coaches in NBA History- if you give him the players to run his system then the system will work. In 10-11 the team were 5th in offensive efficiency as he had players such as Raymond Felton, Al Harrington and Danilo Gallinari who could run his system. This efficiency dropped to 19th after the Carmelo Anthony trade and D'Antoni got an unfair amount of blame. LA was a garbage chute of a job to take, he needs a stretch four and they provided him with Ryan Kelly who is a D-League standard player. This appointment would require a roster overhaul and Bird to co-operate fully with him, the skeptics amongst us would doubt the occurrence of this.
Randy Wittman- Not even gonna justify this link with a real paragraph, failed to get a talented roster into the playoffs and the Wizards took an inordinate amount of mid range jumpers (3rd in the NBA in 2014-2015) despite having a fast back court and a wealth of shooters. Would be a disaster, couldn't implement a pace and space offence with a much more talented roster than Indiana's.
Brian Shaw- Ironically, he was appointed to his last job to slow down George Karl's warp speed offence in order to improve their defensive play on the other end of the court. It didn't happen and the team went from 5th in efficiency under George Karl to 17th then 21st under Brian Shaw. He tried to get a team built to run up and down to play a slow half court offence, it was terrible on his part. This article from Mike Prada should be enough to put you off.
Mike Woodson- Seems a genuinely nice guy and a decent coach in terms of player development, but he got completely out-coached by Frank Vogel in 2013 and it would be completely ironic if we appointed him as our new Head Coach. It's hard to say Woodson is an isolation coach based on his time in New York as he had Carmelo Anthony in his hands, but there's no evidence that he could implement a pace and space offence.
Ettore Messina- This seems to be the guy that most Pacers fans want, and they aren't wrong to want such a coveted and excellent Head Coach. As a European I'm familiar with his work and amongst basketball fans here he is well known. Four euro league championships including two with the small program of Virtus Bologna in Italy. He stresses ball movement and his teams are always united. In terms of running a 'pace; offence, he might not be the man. He prefers a half court offence which is odd for a European Coach. Struggled to oust the Barcelona dominance at the end of his European spell.
Jim Boylen: Long time assistant in the NBA, Jim Boylen's only head Coaching experience was with the University of Utah. Seems to know offence well, designed nice shooting sets but extremely hostile to the media during his reign in charge of Utah. Very knowledgable, unknown as to whether he would be able to introduce an up tempo offence to Indiana. Would probably improve the shooting of most of the players on the roster.