Five-time NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups has emerged as a candidate in the Indiana Pacers’ coaching search, sources told ESPN.
As the Pacers begin preliminary interviews with a number of candidates, Billups and team officials have recently engaged and are planning to talk further about the job, sources said Wednesday.
Billups, 43, fits the historical profile of past Pacers coaches Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas: NBA Finals MVPs considered generational team leaders of men — who were hired without coaching experience.
Pacers president Kevin Pritchard and general manager Chad Buchanan weren’t running the Pacers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but legendary executive Donnie Walsh made those hires and remains on staff — along with Bird — as a consultant. Billups has turned down front-office opportunities since his retirement in 2014, but he has turned his focus toward moving from the broadcast booth into coaching.
Clippers assistant Ty Lue has discussed with Billups the possibility of him joining Lue as his top assistant coach should he land a head-coaching job this offseason, sources said. But the Pacers present a unique opportunity for Billups, given that it’s not a job — unlike Philadelphia and New Orleans — for which Lue looms as a candidate.
Billups himself has served as something of a finishing school for several top NBA guards in recent years, including two in the Eastern Conference semifinals — Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Boston’s Marcus Smart — who each credit time spent with Billups as invaluable in their career growth and evolution.
The Brooklyn Nets hired Steve Nash — a contemporary of Billups — without pro coaching experience, but he did have the benefit of a long-standing relationship with Nets GM Sean Marks. Billups has built relationships with the Pacers backcourt of Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon in recent years, but they’re not running the Pacers’ search.
For the Pacers’ management team and Billups, there will be a process of getting to know each other in these interviews and discussing the depth of Billups’ preparedness for the job — and how they’d work together to build a coaching staff around him. Billups’ force of personality, leadership style and basketball savvy has long made many NBA executives believe it was just a matter of time until he landed a significant role with an organization, but thus far he’s been searching for the right fit.
The Pacers are a perennial playoff team fighting to advance past the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after four straight years of ousters — with a hope that they can find a coach able to also build a program for player development that will show growth from within.
The Pacers fired coach Nate McMillan recently after four consecutive trips to the playoffs — and four first-round exits.
Billups was the 2004 NBA Finals MVP for the Detroit Pistons, earning an NBA title and advancing to the finals again in 2005 before losing a seven-game series to the San Antonio Spurs. Billups was a five-time All-Star and a four-time member of the league’s All-Defensive teams. He played a significant role with successful teams during stops in Denver, New York and the LA Clippers later in his career.