Pacers closing in on a deal to promote Nate McMillan to head coach

Nate McMillan is close to being promoted as Pacers head coach.

Nate McMillan is close to being promoted as Pacers head coach.

Nate McMillan isn’t going anywhere. The Pacers are closing in on a deal for McMillan to become their next head coach, a source close to the situation confirmed to VigilantSports.com.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported the news, and noted that McMillan interviewed for the job late last week.

10 days ago, Pacers President of Basketball of Operations Larry Bird sat before the media and explained why he was not going to renew Frank Vogel’s contract after five and a half seasons as head coach.

When asked if McMillan was a candidate, Bird didn’t really answer the question.

“I got a list of guys,” Bird said. “I’m just putting it together because really this final decision just came down even though at All-Star break I started thinking about it. It’s really a tough deal. It really is. So the next coach comes in, I’ll take my time and go through a lot, make sure we get the guy we think can lead them and keep the ears of the players and push them to higher levels than they have been here lately. We’re excited about it.”

Turns out, Bird didn’t have to go very far. And perhaps this was exactly who he had in mind all along.

This tweet of mine, shortly before Bird’s presser to announce Vogel would not return as coach, now is even more interesting.

McMillan, who has the same agent as Vogel, joined Frank’s staff as the associate head coach prior to the 2013-14 season after Brian Shaw landed his first head-coaching gig — in Denver.

“I’ve been here with Nate for two years, and not one time have I asked him if he ever wanted to be a head coach again,” Bird said. “That’s not how I operate. I don’t ask my assistant coaches or Nate or any of them what they think the job Frank is doing.

“… I thought Nate handled himself as well as anyone I’ve ever seen as a head coach coming in as an assistant. I never sit down with Nate and talk basketball strategies and different things because it’s Frank’s show and he works for Frank. I never did ask if he’s willing to step back into the grind.”

An email to McMillan’s agent was not immediately returned.

See Also: Pete Philo leaves Pacers scouting department

McMillan had an active role as associate head coach coach over the last three seasons. The assistant coaches, Dan Burke and Popeye Jones, would take the game plan to him before then presenting it to Vogel.

This would be the 51-year-old’s third different stint as head coach. He coached the Seattle SuperSonics from 2000-05, and then the Portland Trail Blazers from 2005-12.

Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard was an exec with the Trail Blazers from 2006-2010 while McMillan was head coach. Years later, after the 2012-13 season, even before there there was an opening on the Pacers’ bench, McMillan called Pritchard to express his interest in joining the staff.

“His experience is invaluable,” Pritchard told me at the Orlando Summer League in 2013. “Especially when you go through some tough times because every year you go through some tough times. And so you want some really solid people. We call it calm waters. I think Nate will be terrific just keeping the waters calm.”

[Pacers, NBA hit Chicago for annual Draft Combine]

If both sides agree to terms, McMillan would become the franchise’s 15th head coach. Vogel (250-181) is the winningest coach in NBA franchise history.

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