Indiana Pacers: Is Mike D’Antoni the right fit for the Indiana Pacers?

Mike D’Antoni (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mike D’Antoni has made it official that he won’t return to the Houston Rockets next season. Is D’Antoni the right fit for the Indiana Pacers?

It’s now official. Indiana Pacers candidate Mike D’Antoni has told Houston he will be a coaching free agent this summer. D’Antoni was the first name that ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned as a possible target for the Pacers. It’s only a matter of time before D’Antoni will be interviewed by Indiana, but that leaves a looming question. Is D’Antoni actually the right fit for the Indiana Pacers?

Coaching Resume of Mike D’Antoni

Mike D’Antoni is one of the top offensive minds in basketball and the pioneer of the 7-second offense. D’Antoni has had head coaching spells in Denver, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, and most recently Houston. He is also a two time NBA Coach of the Year winning the awards in Phoenix and Houston.

D’Antoni has a regular-season record of 672-527 and a playoff record of 54-56. He has made the conference finals three times in his career, two times with the Suns and once with the Rockets.

Mike D’Antoni’s fit with the Pacers

Obviously, from an offensive standpoint, D’Antoni could really help the Pacers out. The Pacers were in the bottom half of the league offensively last season. They were 23rd in points per game, 19th in offensive rating, and 21st in pace. D’Antoni’s teams are normally top ten in all the above-mentioned categories. With how the game has evolved in the current day, a D’Antoni offense would seem commonplace with it’s fast-paced 3 or layup approach.

Improving the offense is one of the main reasons the Pacers are looking for a new head coach. Nate McMillan failed to adjust to a more modern offense with the players he was given. There is zero doubt in my mind that D’Antoni could lead us in a new direction offensively, but at the same time, I have my doubts that he would be the perfect fit for the Indiana Pacers.

D’Antoni heavily relies on a superstar player to run his offense. In his two most successful seasons he had either James Harden or Steve Nash on his team, which both players won MVP in their respective season. The Pacers currently do not have that level of player on the roster so it’s concerning to me how the team would function under him.

Teams he coached with no MVP-level player are either getting swept in the first round or getting beat 4-1 in the 2nd round. Obviously, it’s tough to win with no star player but in his two first-round exits that were sweeps, he had Carmelo Anthony and an aged Kobe Bryant.

Mike D’Antoni as a culture setter is another concern I have for him in Indy. Personally, I feel like D’Antoni teams just are missing that championship culture. The Phoenix and Houston teams both made Western Conference finals but only Houston came close to winning, losing in Game 7 to the Warriors in 2018. I considered that series one of the biggest flops I’ve seen as the Rockets were leading 3-2, Kevin Durant was out for the series, and still managed to lose.

I don’t see D’Antoni as a “program builder” as the Pacers have stated they are looking for in their next coach. Granted I do think if hired, D’Antoni could propel the offense to new heights we haven’t seen before but what will that exactly do for the team, and at what cost will it come?

D’Antoni will most likely be an expensive hire for the Pacers. Herb Simmon hasn’t been known to be a big spender in the past so it will be interesting to see how he approaches this situation. Also on the roster front, what moves will D’Antoni want done to have players that better fit his style of play. I’d imagine one of the bigs would be traded to better suit a D’Antoni offense.

If D’Antoni is hired it will still be a solid signing for the Pacers and I think he would be an upgrade from McMillan. I still don’t think he will take us further in the Playoffs like Pacers’ fans want. I see D’Antoni getting us out of the first round but nothing further than that. The next Pacers coach doesn’t need to be a good hire. He or she needs to be the right hire.