I have a former player of mine who is beginning a new career as a teacher and basketball coach. As you would expect he is honored to have the opportunity and overwhelmingly enthused for the chance to put his stamp on a program, and to teach and lead a group of young men to success. The questions that I have challenged him to try and answer and define for himself and his program are to clearly state what his priorities are, what his goals are, and to have a true action plan on how to achieve them. As you might expect, the challenge for a young man with little experience to be clear to himself and his own beliefs hasnt been as easy for him as he probably expected when I made him that challenge.
That led me to posting this from a Pacers perspective. What are truly Coach O'Brien's priorities, and what should they be? I thought the topic merited further discussion.
Let's review what O'Brien has done so far first of all. It has been reported that he is visiting all current players and meeting with them, and trying to get to know them a little. He has also done some interviews and press conferences outlining his opinions and beliefs, and has come across at least for now as a very straightforward and honest leader, very direct without alot of pomp and circumstance. We also know by the latest interview I read on PD that he has been working out free agents for the summer league team, and no doubt has been at least somewhat involved in the personnel machinations currently taking place. He has put his staff together from his previous stops with little change, and seems to have a head start on his own beliefs and opinions of our current roster, and how he intends to at least preliminarily use it. These are all basic but fundamental things that any incoming new coach would be doing, and the tentative optimism surrounding our fan base is probably somewhat justified. Jim O'Brien has made clear that his mandate is to make this a playoff team immediately, this season.
My question is: Is this enough?
Those of us who wanted a new and fresh face and perspective have to be questioning at least somewhat still our new direction. I haven't heard one bit of discussion coming from Conseco Fieldhouse about beginning a long range plan that can lead us to a championship. I see Coach O'Brien's comments and I see a man who can likely improve us in the short run, but who may lack the personality and dynamic thinking to lead us long term to a championship level. I don't see enough "change in culture" in the Pacers way of thinking yet to give me any real true optimistic long term positivity...do any of you?
Because I think a "change in culture" is really what we need. Not in any one personnel move, or in any one player or individual, but maybe it's time we hold our ownership more accountable than what we have in the past. I think it's clear that Herb and Mel Simon don't have any more of a long term view of driving to win a title than our management does, and that lack of drive, risk taking approach comes from the top, and no where else.
The Pacers are on a treadmill to mediocrity, and are in danger of falling much further behind the rest of the league than any of us probably realize or want to admit. Someday I may delve deeper into the lack of use of new data systems to analyze players and teams, but for now it appears to me that the Pacers continue to react to problems this summer instead of trying to get ahead of the curve.
Jim O'Brien is personally working out guys for our summer league team, guys who won't likely play much for us this season, and almost surely won't be members of our roster when and if we become championship contenders again. How does this drive our fan base and grow it.....how will this change the culture from an organization who seems content to me of being just barely into the playoffs to a team on the leading edge of a decade or more of championship runs every season?
Maybe it's just my mood today, but the same issues that bothered me so much at the end of the season are still bothering me today. A lack of seeing ahead, a lack of long term vision and planning, and a lack of willingness to think outside the mainstream to solve problems and break new ground. My only new true thinking about this is that Im starting to blame ownership much more than anyone else. The only reason any of these issues exist is because the leaders of the organization allow them to.
The death of Coach Terry Heoppner this week cause the state of Indiana to lose such a dynamic leader in sports. Coach Hep was a true model of the type of drastic and dynamic actions I think we are going to have to create as an organization. Not one person believes that Coach Hep wouldn't have turned IU football into a great program given enough time, at least those who had met him and been infected by his enthusuasm and drive and dynamic way he had to inspire people.
Who will be the Indiana Pacers version of Coach Hep? I do not see one, and even worse I don't see any evidence that the Pacers think they need one. I see a Colts organization who is the best run team in the NFL, coming off a championship season, building a new state of the art stadium, who has a hall of fame level coach, quarterback, reciever, and President. In the short attention span internet world we live in, shouldnt the Pacers and their true diehard fans be worried about them becoming an afterthought in their own city? Do Mel and Herb Simon have any envy at all of Jim Irsay, or are they just happy being in the league, making money, and being mediocre? They have yet to show any sense that they have what it takes from an ownership level to get involved in either selling a vision or acquiring the talented people who do to achieve it.
Herb and Mel, you've been great in your era, and you've helped and achieved alot of things. Things have been much better than in your predecessor's tenure. But your time and our patience is running out. I'm sure there are those who don't crave winning as much as I do or some others do, and that is ok. But the only reason to follow a team for this long with this little return is the drive and effort and BELIEF that all this faith and time and money and desire is going to be fulfilled someday with a championship to celebrate. From my perspective, you don't look like ownership and an organization that is going full bore to win a title. And if you stay stuck in the 80's and 90's way of thinking and operating, you'll never win a title.
We need a culture change from this organization right now, today. Come up with a long term goal and vision, sell us and lead us to believe in that goal. Don't present some stupid slogan in a few days or weeks, and don't try and tell us that Jim O'Brien is such a great coach that he by himself is gooing to make all the difference....we all want to believe it, but we know better. Get out into the public and sell it, don't just stay hunkered down in downtown Indianapolis, but promote the entire state. How telling was it that this week the Indianapolis Colts had a promotional event at Springs Valley High School, French Lick Indiana, the home of Larry Bird. Autographs, players, games, cheerleaders....thousands of new young Colts fans being created RIGHT IN THE HOMETOWN OF LARRY LEGEND! Any plans announced from Conseco to do anything like that? No......
Forget coaching changes, Bird and Walsh, and Jermaine O'Neal. I think the changes we need start with ownership. Most of us on this forum grew up watching games on Channel Four, watching in my case Clark Kellogg, Chuck Person, then Dale Davis and Reggie Miller, and became through the love of the sport Pacer fans for life. But the kids that are young and impressionable now, who are forming those life long "fanships" for sports, are turned off by the Pacers, and rightly so. The Colts do almost everything right, and the Pacers do almost everything wrong, but worse yet either don't care or have their heads too far stuck in the sand to realize it. Either way we need a drastic change, before this forum becomes irrevalent to anyone who doesn't live in the Pacers new future hometown.
As draft day approaches, no one is "on the clock" more than Mel and Herb Simon....fans, the clock is ticking.
As always, this is just my opinion.