Since the NBA has locked out its players, the only news we have on the Pacers is the hiring of the coaching staff and front office personnel. And if you believe coaches have a significant impact on the team, then Pacers fans certainly have something to be excited about.
First of all, interim head coach Frank Vogel will now be the official head coach. He wasn't perfect as Jim O'Brien's replacement but he was certainly better. He got the team to play hard and play 'smash mouth' basketball, reduced the reliance on outside shooting and got players to play to their strengths, and rejuvenated some of the youngsters, especially Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. That said, Vogel is still young (38), inexperienced and needs help.
In comes Brian Shaw, who was a part of 5 championship teams as either player or coaching staff with the LA Lakers and was widely tipped to succeed Phil Jackson until Mike Brown took the spot from right under him. Shaw is known as a player's coach, a great locker room presence and an all-round super dude. Working with and under the Zen Master for all those years should be a big help, not just with the Xs and Os but also in dealing with personalities, egos, attitudes and player confidence. Interestingly, instead of assistant coach, Shaw has been given the title of associate head coach. Whatever that means. Vogel himself said that it will be like having two head coaches. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing because that has the potential to divide players. I guess we'll see.
Rounding out the final two positions on the coaching staff are Dan Burke (who was re-signed) and Jim Boylen (new addition). Burke brings back with him 16 years of experience on NBA benches and will be hugely beneficial to a relatively inexperienced head coach like Vogel. Boylen had been the head coach at the University of Utah for the last four years and will bring tons of college and NBA experience (11 years with Houston, Milwaukee and Golden State) to the Pacers.
From a coaching perspective at least, the Pacers are starting to look real good.
Oh, and another thing I forgot -- Pacers hired former Portland Trailblazers GM Kevin Pritchard as 'director of player personnel' for one year. Sounds like an eventual replacement for Larry Legend if you ask me (despite their refutations). Pritchard's reputation is a mixed bag, but he's done some good for the Blazers over the years. I think he will be an asset in the long run.
Lastly, the 2011-2012 schedule is out, even though no one knows at this stage if there is even going to be a season at all.
Once again, the Pacers aren't getting a lot of respect from the schedule makers. They start their first two games on the road against the Pistons and the Thunder, before opening at home against the Celtics. And even before the first month is over they will begin a killer road trip that includes the likes of Phoenix, Denver, Utah, Portland and the LA Clippers.