The Pacers are looking to replace their failed head coach, Nate Bjorkgren as one of several team looking to change their leader before the 2021-22 season tips off. I say several because before I finished writing this, Rick Carlisle stepped down in Dallas which added to the list of coaching openings.
I’m riffing off of an article (ESPN+) by the legendary co-host of the Fabulous Peltoncast who also dabbles in NBA analysis for ESPN, Kevin Pelton who recently ranked the six open NBA coaching jobs. And by recently, I mean yesterday which makes this old new thanks to Carlisle.
But...if you listen/read Pacers fans you would get the impression that the Pacers’ job is last in line among the available openings. Sometimes when you are too close to a situation you need an objective voice from outside to level the expectation and/or self-hate.
Yes, the Pacers don’t have an All-NBA player to rally around going forward and yes, the team has soured on two coaches in two years, but according to KP, they aren’t in the worst shape.
In fact, Pelton had the Pacers rank third among the six teams looking for a coach at the time of publishing (again, yesterday!). KP was looking at things from the perspective of a coach interested in each job. So, considering all of the situations, the Portland Trail Blazers were ranked last (6th) since they certainly had a solid roster with Dame Lillard leading the way, but also have a GM Neil Olshey who made it clear the team’s issues were a coaching problem and not a roster issue, No pressure new coach!
As for the Pacers, they finished ahead of Washington and Orlando with the Wiz having similar issues to Portland while the Magic are in worse roster limbo. Plus, from a new coach’s perspective, the Pacers will be giving some excess rope to a new hire after the Bjorkgren fiasco which forced two coaching searches in consecutive offseasons.
As for the issues, here are KP’s thoughts on where the Pacers stand today:
The downside is that there isn’t much upside. The Pacers’ projected starters are all 25 or older, meaning there’s little likelihood of the internal growth needed for Indiana to become a contender in the Eastern Conference. Still, just getting back to the playoffs and being competitive in the first round will look good after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign.
Carlisle departing Dallas offered a jolt of hope, considering his past relationship with the Pacers. Personally, I feel the current team and any tweaks they are able to make Carlisls a great fit for a team that has to beat you by being greater than the sum of its parts. Also, remember that Carlisle’s “firing” from the Pacers after the brawl was a solid from friend Larry Bird to avoid the eventual MurphLeavy rebuild that was on tap.
In fact, I think Carlisle owes us! Time to come finish the job. If only the Celtics didn’t have an opening...