Bill Bayno ‘couldn’t have written a better story’ to be reunited with McMillan, Pritchard in Indy

Bill Bayno recently rode the elevator from the Event Level to Founders Level at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and then entered the office of Larry Bird, the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations.

“I was nervous as hell going into interview with Larry Bird,” Bayno explained Tuesday after his first official practice with the Pacers. “Nate [McMillan] is like, ‘Why?’ I go, ‘That’s Larry Bird!’ I grew up watching him.”

Bayno was officially added to coach McMillan’s staff on Monday, but it had been in the works for a month, or, really years.

Bayno goes all go all the back to 2005 to their days in Portland. Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard, then the Trail Blazers Director of Player Personnel turned interim head coach, brought Bayno on board as a scout. Pritchard returned to the front office and McMillan came over from Seattle.

“Kevin and Nate are both like family to me,” Bayno said.

Bayno works out with Pacers second-round pick Georges Niang after practice.

Bayno worked out with Pacers second-round pick Georges Niang after practice.

Bayno left for a season in 2008 to be the head coach at Loyola Marymount, or so he hoped. That only lasted three games because of health issues.

He then returned to Portland and joined McMillan’s staff in 2009. Two years later, he made the right professional decision, to leave for another franchise, but that didn’t make it easy.

“The only reason I ever left Portland was because they only offered me a one-year deal and Minnesota offered me four,” Bayno explained. “And Nate told me to leave. He said, ‘You got to take that.’ But I hated to leave him back then.”

And when the Trail Blazers moved on from McMillan in 2012, Bayno promised him that when Nate got another head-coaching job, he would “drop everything to come work for you.”

[Pacers Podcast: Nate McMillan]

So once Bayno heard the rumors this spring that McMillan may be Bird’s choice, he shot him a text to share that he had completed one interview but would not decide on that job until McMillan’s new title was finalized.

Well it took several years and a three-year stint as Frank Vogel’s associate head coach, but McMillan is an NBA head coach once again.

“I thought it was long overdue,” said Banyo. “I couldn’t believe, with the success he had back when the West was at its toughest, he was averaging 54 wins a year there and he wasn’t even getting any interviews and I thought that was crazy. I was just so happy for him to get this opportunity and then when he called I was ecstatic.

“I would not want to be anywhere else other than back where I started. It’s kind of come full circle.”

Bayno was fired up on Tuesday and for good reason. It marked the started of rookie/free agent camp, which leads into Summer League.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

“As along as the season is, being with good people that appreciate hard work, that are in it together, to me is the most important thing. And you don’t have that, you don’t have the togetherness between management and coaches all of the time, and you don’t have a staff full of egoless guys that are all in it together, and we have that here. So that was really attractive.”

Bayno joins longtime Pacers assistant Dan Burke, who begins his 20th season with the franchise, and Popeye Jones, who enters his fourth year and will direct the Summer League team.

“He has a lot of experience on both sides of the ball,” McMillan said of Banyo. “He brings a lot of energy. I think our guys are definitely going to improve with him working with Billy so I’m excited to have him on board, again.”

The popular sentiment was that McMillan would hire an assistant with a offensive background with both the defense (Burke) and bigs (Jones) covered. He went with what he knows, what’s comfortable, and with another developmental guy.

“That’s a good thing,” McMillan stated. “We also have experience. … Development is a big key and we want our guys to improve and we feel like that preparation that they get before taking the floor should help us out.”

[Nate McMillan discusses his coaching additions, Georges Niang, and summer goals for current Pacers]

Bayno shared that he knows he wasn’t choice No. 1. Once former Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw decided to go elsewhere, to join Luke Walton’s staff with the Lakers, “it was a done deal” for Bayno to come to Indianapolis.

But first he had to run EuroCamp for adidas in Treviso, Italy, and help Jonas Valanciunas with his own camp in Lithuania.

After two-year stops in Minnesota and Toronto, Bayno was out of the NBA for the 2015-16. But he kept busy this past year working NBA clinics, working with Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere, who was drafted by Sacramento, and by having his left hip — or “My dunking hip,” as he joked — finally replaced.

“I had a total hip replacement, which was phenomenal,” he said. “I can’t believe what an amazing surgery it is.”

Coaching is a tough business with incredible demands. As a scout, you’re going wherever the games are. As a player development coach, you are at the beck and call of the players and what works for their schedule. As an assistant coach, the head coach rules all. Bayno has been going non-stop since 1985.

“This year was nice,” he said, sounding relieved. “It was nice to get a year off, get my hip right, and recharge. It was unknown where I was going to end up and honestly, I couldn’t have written a better story to be back with Nate and be part of this organization with Larry and KP, who I think are in the best in the business.”

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