The coaching carousel that is the NBA isn’t new and really hasn’t changed for decades.
The old cliche that “you’re hired to be fired” still applies to a great extent, but there are other team-specific variables that apply.
Sure, the owner matters, but with the exception of just a few, most owners really don’t know squat about the game, and they certainly can’t relate to the various idiosyncrasies of today’s generation of players. That’s what they pay their general managers for, and that makes perfect sense on paper. After all, they don’t make money off of their franchises despite the fact that there’s always a number of other gazillionaires willing to buy their team when they decide to liquidate.
The Simons have been great stewards of the franchise, but they know as much about professional basketball as I do the mall business. They entrust the day-to-day basketball operations to the Kevin Pritchards of the world because that’s what almost all owners do. After all, they’re busy managing their portfolios that made them filthy rich and enabled them to buy into this elite club at outrageous rates.
Every business has operational costs, and player salaries top that list. The binding collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and players’ union takes care of a large part of that in terms of who is paid what, but not what a team might spend in terms of other related costs. While I’m quite a few hours short of a certified public accountant designation, I can tell you one fixed budgetary item on the Pacers’ balance sheet and that’s the head coaching salary number.
Historically, it has been far beneath what the market generally bares for exceptional talent. No one will ever get crazy rich from coaching the Blue and Gold, and there’s a reason the team takes such a bargain basement approach.
It stems from a philosophy that the coach is not as important as he thinks he is to the overall process and we’re not going to pay him and foster the impression that he’s needed.
We’ll just surround him with an equally underpaid number of assistants and see what occurs and not worry too much about the competitive nature of the team as we look to write off the playoffs annually by the All-Star break.
Sound harsh? Not really.
The reality is their blue light special mentality that drives their coaching hires has sucked the life out of the franchise for ages. They’ve never paid a competitive salary, and some of their contractual agreements even contained clauses denoting non-guaranteed compensation in the final year of the deal. (Just ask Nate Bjorkgren.)
Accordingly, the only types of candidates they can get to sign the dotted line are retreads and assistants seeking their first head coaching positions. That’s not to say the aforementioned retreads can’t be successful if there is talent in the cupboard, but that’s not the case with this roster.
As long as the Pacers continue to pinch pennies with their head coach, the position will be a revolving door. If you’re not going to offer the level of compensation that will entice a great coach to change his home address, you’ll never be a factor in today’s NBA.
Look, I get it. Pritchard is smarter than all of us (wink) and the Simons control the purse strings. Just come clean with the fans and admit you won’t pay a championship-caliber coach the market value they command and you don’t care. As long as tickets in the nosebleed level are cheap and you offer two hot dogs and a soda for a special price, people will come out nightly, right?
That Capital Improvement Board money you receive shouldn’t be earmarked for a capable coach, so maybe you can erect a fountain outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse and people can throw in coins to raise money for the next coach. Perhaps a Go Fund Me page or a telethon could help raise funds. Then again, maybe you could cut the salary of your general manager and reallocate the capital to the head coaching salary.
Pritchard makes more than the coach and has flopped in an embarrassing fashion for some time. It’s not his fault the Simons won’t pony up the cash for a coach that can lead this team in the desperately needed rebuilding process that’s on the horizon, but his coaching personnel mistakes have exacerbated the overall situation dramatically.
One thing is for certain: The next coach won’t stand a chance to win with the current Pacers formula. He also won’t create any generational wealth either.
Danny Bridges, who would be willing to sign over a savings bond from his early childhood to assist the funding of the next Pacers coach, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.