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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Pacers prove me wrong by dropping big cash on a coach

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I’ve never relished having to admit when I was wrong and certainly find it difficult to offer an apology to those who point it out to me in a clear way. Just two weeks ago, I told you the Indiana Pacers would once again be cheap when it came to hiring a new coach.

I couldn’t have been more incorrect, but there’s definitely a backstory to this hiring that, up until now, nobody other than yours truly seemed interested in telling you about.

Despite firing Rick Carlisle in 2007 and then having to watch from afar as he developed his Hall of Fame resume, which includes an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks, the Pacers swallowed their pride recently and upped the ante in terms of paying market value for an accomplished head coach.

Did Herb Simon simply get tired of the fiascos these past two years, or did someone close to him convince him that if you want to win you’ve got to have both a competent coach and some talented players he can manage through both excellent basketball intellect and proven leadership skills?

Carlisle has all of that and then some, so kudos to the Pacers for finally breaking from their cheapskate approach to hiring and pulling an overdue trigger.

The big question now is who will run this basketball team moving forward in 2021? Most believe it’s President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard with General Manager Chad Buchanan at his side. People in the NBA who hold those titles are generally in charge, with the exception of a few teams whose owners have egos bigger than the arenas their team competes in.

That’s not the case with Simon, and while he’s been a solid steward of the franchise, the one personnel move he refuses to make will undoubtedly continue to haunt the organization in a way that ultimately will never allow them to be a factor in the NBA.

When Carlisle went on 107.5 The Fan here in Indianapolis recently with John Micheal Vincent, he said it was Larry Bird who contacted him to ask if he was interested in coaching the Pacers again.

You know, the same Bird who still keeps an office in the Pacers’ practice facility and was also involved in the “Twin Nates” fiasco. That guy.

The one who once fired Carlisle and continually says he’s retired, but yet continues to micromanage the team remotely from a swank golf club somewhere via cellphone.

My historical rants to that fact aside, what are the Pacers paying the aforementioned Pritchard and Buchanan for? Wouldn’t their combined salaries come in handy for free agent signings or for Carlisle to pay his assistant coaches a competitive wage as well?
Aren’t there a gazillion other things that money could also be used for? Of course there is, but it simply won’t happen.

Pritchard and his staff are on a short leash now, so if this Carlisle hire goes surprisingly south, he, not Bird, will take the fall for it. Think I’m wrong? Look at the historic miscues with Bird’s name all over them, and he’s still around the team. The guy is going nowhere, and while that’s Simon’s decision solely, it’s the wrong strategy.
There are still a number of questions surrounding the roster and what it will look like come opening night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this fall.

More changes will likely occur, but who exactly will be calling the shots on basketball decisions? The one constant will be Simon’s infatuation with Bird and the soap opera that is the Indiana Pacers front office.

The real question is why does this franchise still look to a legendary player who was a subpar GM on his best days for all the answers?

Stay tuned. Things are starting to heat up, and it will get hotter.

Danny Bridges, who thinks the Pacers knocked it out of the park with the Carlisle hire, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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