Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan deserved more than a 1-year extension

Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images
Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images /

The Indiana Pacers gave Nate McMillan a one-year extension.

On the one hand, it’s great news for Indiana Pacers fans that the team has agreed to a contract extension for head coach Nate McMillan after rumors started cropping up that he would soon be fired.

On the other hand, it’s somewhat telling what kind of shaky ground McMillan is coaching on if management only found him worthy of a one-year extension that will only keep him at the helm for the 2020-21 season on a sink-or-swim basis.

To be fair, the job security of every head coach in NBA history has come down to getting results. Every coach is coaching on a sink-or-swim basis. But it was a bit odd to hear the Pacers front office was considering a head coaching change with McMillan, and this minimal extension only reinforces the notion that they’re not entirely sold on him just yet.

They are acutely aware of how bad it’d look to fire McMillan as the Pacers surge to the 5-seed in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 5-2 mark in the NBA bubble, however.

"“What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension,” president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. “Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner.”"

Indeed, what McMillan has done with Victor Oladipo out for the majority of the season and Domantas Sabonis out for the NBA restart due to plantar fasciitis has been incredible to watch. Malcolm Brogdon has enjoyed a career year. Sabonis became a first-time All-Star. T.J. Warren blossomed into a Bubble MVP candidate in Orlando, while Oladipo is starting to look like his former self.

Indiana has made the playoffs in all four of his seasons at the helm, and he’s one of 26 coaches in NBA history to reach the 600-win mark.

The Pacers have been a top-10 defense all season long, despite not being a great rebounding team. The problem — and the likely reason Pacers management was/is considering a change at all — is their less modern offense, which ranks 18th in the NBA in offensive rating (109.5 points per 100 possessions).

A feeble offense is one thing, but Indiana’s approach is more archaic in this 3-point heavy league. McMillan’s squad ranks 29th in 3-pointers made and 30th in 3-pointers attempted — this, despite shooting 36.3 percent from downtown, which is the 13th-best mark in the NBA.

However, given how consistently good McMillan’s teams have been during his four years in Indiana, and given the job his team has done in such a bizarre, injury-stricken season, firing him would’ve been completely unfair and stirred up a giant PR s**t-storm. A longer extension was certainly warranted, but the Pacers front office isn’t sold on him being the long-term solution just yet.

Hence, a one-year extension giving both sides the opportunity to wait and feel it out for the 2020-21 campaign, hopefully with a fully roster this time.

For years, the Indiana Pacers have threatened to become an Eastern Conference dark horse. Thanks to injuries to Oladipo and Sabonis, they haven’t gotten the chance to reach for that ceiling. Based on this extension, they’ll only have another year to do so.

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