Nate McMillan a good hire no one seemingly wants to admit

Dropping hints of breaking news that could be done anytime, but choosing a Saturday night to do so, is the equivalent of trying to climb the tree to your bedroom window hoping your parents sleeping on the couch don’t realize you’re sneaking in at 3 a.m. when they saw you last go to bed at 11 p.m.

So when the Nate McMillan-to-Indiana Pacers head coaching post got wind behind its sails to the public, the reaction was predictably, “Caught you climbing the tree, mister (or missus).”

The reality no one wants to admit, though, is that the hire, which was made official Monday, is a good one — it will manifest itself in due time.

Why so confident, you ask?

Well, McMillan took over a Portland franchise at the nadir of its existence, riddled with miserable cap problems, bad luck (the Greg Oden and Brandon Roy injuries), and a questionable culture. In seven seasons, he took a team — one that was previously a stretch to win 20 games — to the playoffs three straight seasons before bowing out 46 games into his final year in Portland in 2012.

At the time, the Blazers’ brass had said he “lost the team,” and that the players weren’t responding to him any longer, particularly after being a plucky, only moderately talented group of bad contracts cobbled together that somehow achieved success.

The mutiny on McMillan was led by now-Dallas Maverick point guard Raymond Felton, who took his share of shrapnel from the ordeal as well, still saddled with the “he’s out of shape” talk.

McMillan, though, transformed a flatlining Portland organization and completely shifted the culture. To an extent, Portland has gained strength from those years — the Blazers have carried on their success post-Nate, even in the face of another major roster overhaul this past season.

If the Pacers seem to have an issue, it’s somewhere in that culture line more than anything. Though it seems curious to hire (promote) a guy who was dispensed from his previous job because guys allegedly quit on him, the cast of characters doing the quitting in Portland have had those issues branded on them elsewhere.

The bloody truth is that the Pacers don’t always try hard. Whether that’s a function of the coach, the players, or the leadership, we will find out, but the Pacers haven’t played consistently hard, gritty basketball in three years. Granted, McMillan has been an assistant on those teams, but it’s foolish to suggest the culture set by an assistant is automatically an extension of the head coach.

Perhaps McMillan had a different view of things, and maybe Larry Bird felt it might be the voice the players need? Again, time will tell.

Most detractors of the McMillan hire were predictable. The media in general, especially in Indiana, loves Frank Vogel. He’s a nice, affable guy who always gave them time. Hell, he won an award for his open nature with the media. If you get them on your side, you can kick a satchel of baby squirrels and they’ll all look the other way. That’s just how it is.

The other detractors posted on social media about McMillan’s horrific “pace” as a head coach with the Blazers, seemingly jiving directly against Bird’s stated desire for a faster, more offensively dynamic Pacers team. To Bird’s point about players tuning out coaches after three years or so (on the surface with no context behind it), Bird seemingly undercuts his own logic.

Seemingly, but not entirely so.

On the pace argument, coaches do adapt — they change in their thinking and philosophy. Portland under McMillan was a team built from the inside-out, always injured, and generally less talented than the majority in the Western Conference. That explains some of the slow pace. You’re simply not going to be a fast-paced team running your offense partially through a 7-foot back-to-the-basket player (LaMarcus Aldridge).

Good coaches mold the style of their teams to fit what’s on the roster. It’d be foolish, at least in my mind, to think McMillan will simply take everything from Portland and put it through Indiana. In short, the offense won’t be drawing up plays for 15-foot Jordan Hill fadeaway jumpers.

The one thing the Pacers need is a jolt in the effort department. They’ve too often looked like they’re just there to collect a paycheck and too rarely internally motivated to prove something. Common logic would suggest that hiring an insider won’t change that. That’s a cogent thought.

It isn’t always the truth, though. Maybe the front office perceived the need for more of a force within the organization and accordingly moved to bring about that internal transformation.

The Pacers needed a culture change. They elevated someone with a proven track record at doing it. The pressure is on, but the hunch is, Nate gets it done, again.