Danny Bridges

It’s been three weeks since the brain trust that is Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard decided to part with Nate McMillan and begin the quest to appoint new leadership just days after granting him a well-deserved contract extension.

Citing another first round exodus from the playoffs as their reasoning, they’ve dived in to the intrepid water better known as the available coaching market and are destined to fail due to their history of underpaying a coach to labor in the obscurity of a bargain basement mentality.

When they jettisoned McMillan, I quickly proclaimed the next coach would be no better than the one they had, and that’s looking like a good prediction based on the list of alleged potential candidates they’re considering for next season.

I’ll skip the vast majority of the embarrassing list and focus on one Mike D’Antoni, who has been rumored for some time as the front runner and recently reported as the pending new sheriff in town. D’Antoni recently tendered his badge in Houston, where the long-time veteran coach compiled a 217-101 mark in his four years at the helm of the Rockets. While his career credentials are solid enough, his price tag doesn’t come close to what the Pacers will offer him or other available and established coaches such as Billy Donavan or Tyrone Lue.

Instead, the Pacers will continue their tight-fisted approach and be forced to settle for a less qualified coach who will accept the opportunity despite the lack of top-tier talent on the current roster to go along with a paltry contract.

The fact that the aforementioned names are all out of reach financially sums up the entire situation with this team, and clearly it all starts with an owner who likes to hide behind the title of a good steward of the franchise as he keeps his checkbook under lock and key. Until the Pacers decide to pay market value for an established coach (you know, one like McMillian), they will be mired in mediocrity, and that’s really a crying shame. 

How many sweetheart deals can Simon continue to accept from the Capital Improvement Board before his loyal fan base sees a financial commitment that is commensurate with building a legitimate contender? The luxury tax that the NBA imposes on owners that go beyond the salary cap isn’t insignificant, but it’s a prerequisite in terms of winning a championship. Today’s successful NBA coaches are also part psychologists and part baby sitters, so you must dish out the money for a good one.

To those loyal fans I mentioned, you’ve got a better chance of hitting PowerBall and the Hoosier Lottery on the same night than the Pacers shelling out real money for a proven coach. If you think I’m being harsh, well, you’re wrong.

The Pacers are counting on you accepting their frugalness, and to date you have. Next season they’ll try to tell you this is your year, and expect you to tender a deposit for your season tickets.

Just for kicks, ask them to allocate some of your hard-earned money to a capable, established coach, one who really isn’t breaking the bank, but rather getting paid for what they’re actually worth.

Danny Bridges, who thinks the cliche you get what you pay for was written with NBA coaches in mind, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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