Pacers fire Nate McMillan two weeks after signing him to an extension

After getting swept by the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers made a stunning about-face and fired head coach Nate McMillan.

On Aug. 12, the Pacers announced that they’d signed head coach Nate McMillan to a one-year extension. Exactly two weeks later, they released a statement saying he’d been fired and the search for a new head coach was beginning immediately.

Given the timing of those two events, the logical conclusion is that what happened during those two weeks — a four-game sweep by a total of 42 points at the hands of the Heat — changed the Pacer’s minds. However, it seems crazy to make this drastic a shift when the Pacers were playing with a hobbled Victor Oladipo and without Domantas Sabonis, not to mention the generally chaotic circumstances of playing in the NBA bubble.

Why would the Pacers decide to fire Nate McMillan?

In a vacuum, the decision to sign McMillan to an extension may have been the bigger surprise. The team finished above .500 in all four of his seasons at the helm, but never really broke through into the top-tier in the East. They topped out at 48 wins and never finished in the top-10 in offensive efficiency. This year’s first-round sweep pushed his playoff record with Indiana to 3-16.

McMillan did some fantastic things, helping the defense reach the top-10 the past two seasons, making the twin-tower pairing of Sabonis and Myles Turner workable and guiding the player development of Sabonis and T.J. Warren. However, the offense often functioned on antiquated principles and despite plenty of talent he failed to create a versatile system at that end that could reliably attack defenses in multiple ways.

Minutes after the firing was announced, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Pacers may have their eyes on Mike D’Antoni. That would certainly be a dramatic shift on the offensive end and if the Pacers have heard something to make them believe D’Antoni is on his way out in Houston, that may have pushed them to make a change with McMillan. The other possibility is that someone like Oladipo, who has just one year left on his contract, expressed some dissatisfaction with McMillan and this was a pre-emptive move to try and keep him in Indiana.

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