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Indiana Pacers fire Nate McMillan following 1st-round sweep

The Indiana Pacers fired coach Nate McMillan on Wednesday less than three weeks after announcing he would keep the job for two more years.

Posted: Aug 26, 2020 3:57 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nate McMillan won dozens of regular-season games despite the Indiana Pacers’ continual injuries.

The playoff losses cost him his job: On Wednesday, two days after enduring a second straight first-round sweep, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard fired McMillan.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction,” said Pritchard, whose relationship with McMillan dates to their earlier days in Portland. “Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years.”

The decision was a surprise, given Pritchard’s Aug. 12 announcement that McMillan had been given a one-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season.

At the time, Pritchard cited McMillan’s ability to overcome major injuries — like the one that kept Victor Oladipo out for 12 months — and personnel changes, such as the trade of All-Star forward Paul George.

McMillan himself said then it was uncharacteristic for him to be working on a deal but the unprecedented season format caused by the pandemic made him rethink things.

“I felt that was appropriate for both sides,” McMillan told reporters two weeks ago. “Normally, I don’t do any negotiations ’till after the season. But this has been an unusual season for all of us — coaches, players and management — and we’d been talking about this. We just thought a one-year extension really was appropriate.”

Another dismal playoff performance apparently changed the equation.

While McMillan’s 183 victories with Indiana rank third in the franchise’s NBA history and the Pacers made the playoffs in each of his four seasons as head coach, McMillan’s teams went just 3-16 in the postseason and were swept three times — the only three times the Pacers failed to win a single game in a best-of-seven NBA series.

They haven’t reached the second round since appearing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014. After Monday’s loss to Miami, Indiana has lost a franchise-record nine consecutive playoff games.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra offered very sharp criticism of the firing.

“It seems totally ridiculous,” Spoelstra said. “It seems like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. Just two weeks ago at the beginning of our series, you’re giving him an extension -- but really it’s just a media fake extension to appease whatever they felt like they needed to appease.

“We have incredible respect for Nate and his staff and what they’ve done this year,” Spoelstra added. “And it does matter, whether people want to hear it or not, it does matter: A lot of what this bubble has been is who’s been available and who hasn’t been available. They have one of their best players not available, another rotation player not available ... it’s just disappointing to see that.”

Injuries were indeed a central theme in the early exits.

After getting swept by Cleveland in 2017, the Pacers lost Oladipo, a two-time All-Star, with a season-ending knee injury in 2019. Without its best player, Indiana was swept by Boston.

Oladipo didn’t return until late January and still was on a minutes restriction when the season restarted in Florida. Then All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis went down with a foot injury and never played in the bubble.

Without Sabonis, Indiana’s top rebounder, the Heat repeatedly took advantage of his absence including one sequence in Game 4 when the Heat grabbed three offensive rebounds before making a layup.

“Once you get into the playoffs, you need everybody,” McMillan said afterward. “You’re playing against the best. I really felt that we had everybody when we came down and (Sabonis) got injured and wasn’t able to play in any of these games. It was a tough adjustment for us.”

Asked what needs to change to win in the postseason, Oladipo said he wasn’t sure.

“It’s hard to gauge because unfortunately we haven’t been 100% healthy the last few years,” he said. “They played four great games, they won four different ways.”

Whatever the answer, McMillan won’t be part of the solution. He finished his career in Indiana with a record of 183-136. McMillan is 661-588 overall in 16 seasons as a head coach for Indiana, Portland and Seattle.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
Adams295235
Whitley294125
Wabash293045
Ripley292345
Putnam284847
Huntington283557
Jasper282433
White267538
Daviess261672
Jefferson250738
Fayette242348
Decatur242182
Greene233360
Posey232326
Wells229447
LaGrange224161
Clay217932
Scott216937
Randolph208340
Jennings192535
Sullivan189031
Spencer181917
Fountain179725
Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
Owen159537
Fulton159229
Carroll152115
Orange151433
Rush149918
Perry147227
Vermillion144933
Franklin143433
Parke12908
Tipton128232
Pike113625
Blackford107522
Pulaski95237
Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
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