There is a great episode of That 70’s Show where Midge, Donna’s airhead mom, has signed up for a class at the local community college. The night of her first class, Midge asks her husband Bob if he would like a turkey or tuna sandwich for dinner. “Tonight………but tonight is meatloaf night,” is his response. I caught a re-run of this episode on saturday, not long after I read the news on Indycornrows that Kevin Pelton, of Basketball Prospectus, has begun working as a consultant with the Pacers. For some reason my brain drew an instant connection between the two.
“Tonight . . . . . . but tonight is meatloaf night,” seems to me a perfect phrase to describe the thinking of the Pacers front office. They certainly have a system, a way of approaching things. They have stuck with this system not because it is the most effective or productive, but because it is what they know, what they are used to. Kind of like eating meatloaf every Wednesday night. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I love meatloaf but I wouldn’t want to eat it once a week for the rest of my life. In addition the Pacers have had some remarkable success with their meatloaf over the past fifteen years, although I would argue that some of their best years came when they threw a little Tabasco into the recipe (Jalen Rose, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson). I think the time has come for the organization to branch out and try some new things. We aren’t saying we’ll never eat meatloaf again, but we want to try some new things.
That is where Kevin Pelton comes in. Kevin will be playing the part of sushi in my convoluted food analogy. Kevin’s statistical analysis represents something new and slightly exotic for our organization. We have heard other people tried it and really liked it. Now we are finally ready to expand out palate a little. I for one, love sushi, and am psyched to hear that Kevin has been brought on board. They are not handing him the keys to the organization, and he is not on the fast track to become GM when Larry Bird’s tenure finally comes to a close. What he will be is another voice in the discussion. A voice that I don’t believe has been adequately represented in this organization in the past. His will be a voice driven by a new type of data and quantitative analysis, reason over instinct.
There is a chance that he may not help, that we really had it right with meatloaf all along. I for one am just glad that the Pacers will no longer be limiting themselves to just the tools that they have used in the past; the tools that they know inside and out, the tools they are comfortable with. I am excited for the Pacers to try something new, and maybe find out they were really missing something incredible.