In a mildly surprising move today, the Indiana Pacers announced that they have exercised the team’s option to extend Jim O’Brien’s contract for the 2010-11 season. Over the past two seasons, O’Brien has coached the Pacers to a 72-92 record, finishing just out of the Eastern Conference playoffs in ninth place each year.
Opinions of him through the Pacer fan base vary greatly. Supporters feel that, under O’Brien, the Pacers have given a more consistent effort and been more enjoyable to watch than in the final two seasons under Rick Carlisle. Many also view him as a part of the overall “change the culture” campaign to clean up the team’s reputation, both on the court and in the locker room. Some who like O’Brien also generally doubt that any coach could have coaxed many more wins out of a Pacers’ roster that could generously be termed as “transitional.”
Detractors, however, point to the sub-.500 record, the on-again/off-again defense (which some would say is only “off-again”) and the questionable use of the younger players. O’Brien’s relatively free-wheeling, uptempo offense, with a penchant for the trey, has caused some consternation in the more traditional and staid Hoosier basketball environment.
This move also fits with the general strategy exercised over the course of this summer regarding player acquisitions. It is undoubtedly low cost, and it would leave them open to bringing in a new coach for the 2011-2012 season. This would coincide with all of their large, expiring contracts (Murphy, Dunleavy, Ford and Foster), and, presumably some significant roster changes.
Finally, Bird and Herb Simon seem to be comfortable with Jim — at least for the time being.
“We are very happy to get the option done on Jim’s contract,” said Larry Bird, President of Pacers Basketball Operations. “When I interviewed Jim for this job, he was committed to everything we want to do. We both feel we’re moving in the right direction.”
At the very least, this should put a damper on any lingering “will they or won’t they fire JO’B” discussions that fans are having this season.
JO’B and his Paulie Walnuts hair will be roaming the sidelines until at least 2011. (Image: HBO)