'A really amazing job': How Lloyd Pierce and the coaching staff stepped up with Rick Carlisle and others out
More responsibilities, enhanced protocols and respect earned — here's what it was like for Pierce and the other assistant coaches.
You don’t expect to be in that spot and you don’t want to be short on staff. But on Dec. 9, Lloyd Pierce suddenly found himself as the the leader of the Pacers for an indefinite amount of time — likely 10 days.
Rick Carlisle, his boss who had recruited him hard to be the top Pacers assistant, was confirmed to have COVID-19 after three positive tests. So, Pierce was in charge.
First though, practice was cancelled out of an abundance of caution while they tried to get a handle on Carlisle’s situation and whether anyone else was infected with the virus.
All players and staff members, plus anyone else they thought to include, were required to drive to the practice facility for a COVID-19 test the first day. Even the vaccinated. And then they all had to return between 8 and 9 a.m. the following day (Dec. 10) for another test the morning of a game.
“I think we all went through this last year and we all had the experience of changes happening, and being able to adjust to the changes,” Pierce said. “So obviously we found out the news and there were a lot of precautionary steps taken by the organization to keep everyone home, and then figure out what the next steps could potentially look like.”
Carlisle communicated with his coaching staff and with head athletic trainer Josh Corbeil, who was in contact with the NBA about frequency of testing and recommendations for the next week. The team entered enhanced protocols, which required daily testing by everyone.
That concluded one week later, on Dec. 16. And then they were not required to come in for testing on their off days over the weekend. But before then, their schedule was once again dictated by testing. So before flying to Milwaukee, they tested. Then, hours later, before they practiced at Marquette University, they all had to test once again.
“It’s a mysterious virus,” Carlisle said on Sunday after he rejoined the team. “… This period has produced a different set of circumstances.”
After Carlisle tested positive, assistants Jenny Boucek and Zach Chu later entered the health & safety protocols and were away from the team. (Chu exited the protocols on Dec. 20).
And Boucek, for example, had the Warriors’ scout so that was passed along to assistant coach Ronald Nored, who was headed to a concert the night before they played. So he had to alter his plans and get up to speed to prepare the rest of the team.
Calbert Cheaney sat at the front of the bench for the four games and Tyler Marsh took on additional responsibilities behind the bench with regard to the coach’s challenge — which is usually handled by Chu. Marsh had the replay computer on his lap during games and would pass along what he saw.
Substations were mostly handled by Nored and Mike Weinar, who coached alongside Carlisle the past 13 seasons in Dallas. And those two often got up out of their seats to both shout out instructions to players and to mention something to Pierce, who stood during games.