Pacers coaching mishap possibly a cautionary tale for Wizards


It's almost hard to see how it could have gone worse for the Indiana Pacers. They fired Nate McMillan after a season where they held a .616 winning percentage (51-win pace) and replaced him with Nate Bjorkgren, a first-time NBA head coach.

Bjorkgren lasted one season before getting fired on Wednesday, while McMillan has the Atlanta Hawks tied at 1-1 with the Philadelphia 76ers in their second-round playoff series.

Bjorkgren may end up proving to be a good coach somewhere else someday down the road. But his failure was juxtaposed with McMillan leading the Hawks on a major midseason turnaround, which made it clear he was a difference-maker.

Really, it's a cautionary tale. And what happened to the Pacers could be applied to the Wizards in at least one way.

Set aside the decision to get rid of McMillan. Though the Wizards just made the playoffs, it's hard to compare the season they had to the 51-win pace the Pacers were on last year. Though McMillan and Scott Brooks are similar in their overall career experience, and happen to be forever linked by an infamous fight in the 1993 NBA Playoffs, their tenures with the Pacers and Wizards had marked differences.

Where this could relate to the Wizards, however, is the path the Pacers chose to replace McMillan. They handed a team built to win over to someone who didn't have experience. While that has worked out for some teams, there is some inherent risk and clearly it did not work out for the Pacers.


If the Wizards end up parting with Brooks, they will have to weigh the value of experience in choosing someone to coach a team led by Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal that plans to raise its expectations, it could be quite a bit for a first-time head coach to take on.

Maybe that could be circumvented with a coach who had a reputation that precedes him, like Steve Nash in Brooklyn. There is also the chance of hiring a first-time head coach who finds success right away.

But all of those things will have to be weighed by general manager Tommy Sheppard and his staff as they ponder what to do with the head coaching position. It's not as simple as letting Brooks go, they would then have to find the right person to replace him.

In all of it, they might want to do what they can to prevent what happened in Indiana.