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Mike D’Antoni likely Pacers-bound in narrower coaching field

Mike D'Antoni, Pacers

Former Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni looked like he was bound to become the man in charge of the Philadelphia 76ers next season. But in a surprising turn of events, Philly announced that they have signed Los Angeles Clippers’ recently-outed mentor, Doc Rivers, on Thursday.

With just a few head coaching gigs left in the league, D’Antoni might have to sacrifice his preference of coaching a big-market franchise. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the 69-year-old mentor’s best bet at the moment is to take over the Indiana Pacers’ head-coaching vacancy.

“He was very intrigued with the Philadelphia situation,” Woj said on SportsCenter, as relayed by  Alexandros Tsakos of TalkBasket.net. “There are still openings out there—I think one that bears watching, perhaps, is Indiana. The Pacers are still in the early stages of a search. They’ve been talking to candidates. They haven’t narrowed the field down too far yet.”

Mike D’Antoni has had a track record of taking high-profile coaching gigs since leaving the Phoenix Suns in 2008. The two-time NBA Coach of The Year winner is not a fan of rebuilding teams and prefers to join playoff-ready squads. He’ll have a lot of tools to work with if he does sign with Indy, who is still looking for a new tactician after letting go of Nate McMillan.

The Pacers do face some uncertainty with the status of Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo but are still expected to be a playoff team upon the return of Domantas Sabonis from injury. Indiana played an up-tempo style in the 2019-20 campaign, particularly in the bubble with the emergence of TJ Warren. D’Antoni can certainly elevate the Pacers’ already daunting offensive attack.

Apart from the Pacers and D’Antoni’s former team Rockets, only the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, and New Orleans Pelicans are still in need of a head coach. The Clips job will certainly be the most enticing one for D’Antoni, but he also can’t go wrong opting to choose the Pacers.