Indiana Pacers fire Nate McMillan following 1st-round sweep

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FILE - In this March 4, 2020, file photo, Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, in Milwaukee. The Indiana Pacers fired coach Nate McMillan on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, less than three weeks after announcing he would keep the job for two more years. Team officials made the announcement 48 hours after the Pacers suffered their second straight first-round sweep. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

INDIANAPOLIS – Nate McMillan won dozens of regular-season games despite the Indiana Pacers' continual injuries.

The playoff losses cost him his job: On Wednesday, two days after enduring a second straight first-round sweep, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard fired McMillan.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction,” said Pritchard, whose relationship with McMillan dates to their earlier days in Portland. “Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years."

The decision was a surprise, given Pritchard's Aug. 12 announcement that McMillan had been given a one-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season. At the time, Pritchard cited McMillan's ability to overcome major injuries — like the one that kept Victor Oladipo out for 12 months — and personnel changes, such as the trade of All-Star forward Paul George.

McMillan himself said then it was uncharacteristic for him to be working on a deal but the unprecedented season format caused by the pandemic made him rethink things.

“I felt that was appropriate for both sides,” McMillan told reporters two weeks ago. “Normally, I don’t do any negotiations ’till after the season. But this has been an unusual season for all of us — coaches, players and management — and we’d been talking about this. We just thought a one-year extension really was appropriate.”

Another dismal playoff performance apparently changed the equation.

While McMillan's 183 victories with Indiana rank third in the franchise's NBA history and the Pacers made the playoffs in each of his four seasons as head coach, McMillan's teams went just 3-16 in the postseason and were swept three times — the only three times the Pacers failed to win a single game in a best-of-seven NBA series.