After just one season with Nate Bjorkgren at the helm, the Indiana Pacers decided it was time to move on from the first-time head coach after he failed to establish solid relationships with players and staff members. Indiana finished the season ninth in the Eastern Conference and won a play-in game, but it fell far short of expectations after finishing last year as the No. 4 seed in the East.
As the Pacers begin their coaching search, the team is reportedly targeting former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, former Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford and Brian Shaw, who is head coach of the G League Ignite team, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Indiana is targeting coaches with experience, and with both Stotts and Clifford, the Pacers want a coach with a winning pedigree to get this team over the hump.
Stotts led the Trail Blazers to the postseason in eight of his nine seasons with the team, including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2019. His offensive-minded approach should help an Indiana team that finished with a league-average 111.9 offensive rating. Indiana already has the pieces to be an elite defensive team, so Stotts' history of leading mediocre to porous defensive teams may not be as big of an issue in Indiana as it was in Portland. Stotts also has a hometown connection to Indiana, as he played high school basketball in the state and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
With Clifford, the Pacers would be getting a stronger defensive coach, who has a hard-nosed demeanor and a penchant for getting to the playoffs. He parted ways with the Magic after Orlando decided that in the midst of a rebuild they wanted a coach who was on a similar timeline with the young players on their roster. Translation: Clifford's coaching pedigree was too good for where the Magic are at right now. With the Pacers, he would inherit a team ready-made for the postseason, and perhaps a roster more suited to his coaching style.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Shaw has the least head coaching experience of the group, but that doesn't make him any less qualified than the other two reported candidates. Shaw served a two-year stint as the head coach of the Nuggets from 2013-2015, where he compiled a 56-85 record. Although his time in Denver didn't lead to much success, he did the best he could with what was on his roster with the likes of Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye. His most recent head-coaching stint has been in the G League with the Ignite team for fresh-out-of-high-school prospects who choose to play professionally rather than going to college. He also served as an assistant coach for the Lakers and Pacers throughout his career.
Whoever gets hired as the next Pacers coach, things can't go much worse than they did during Bjorkgren's tenure. But while there's nowhere to go but up for the next coach in line, there's still going to be pressure to deliver results with an Indiana roster filled with talented players like All-Star Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner.