Pacers longtime advance scout Jimmy Powell retires after 21 years; Gary Schmidt hired
Over 200 days each year on the road, millions of hotel points and always something to play for – Powell enjoyed his role and survived the grind.
After 21 years with the franchise, Pacers advance scout Jimmy Powell has retired, he told Fieldhouse Files. He’s currently in Scottsdale and also spends time at his longtime residence in Springfield, Mass.
“I’m enjoying retirement,” he said by phone Thursday. “I don’t miss all the travel, but I miss all the interactions with the coaches and players. We were always a team to be reckoned with.”
An advance scout is arguably the most difficult job on staff. You’re away from the team, on the road over 200 days a year. When the schedule is unveiled in the fall, Powell needs a month to organize his travel schedule.
It is his job to inform the coaching staff about each opponent. So the advance scout travels from arena to arena charting tendencies, offensive sets, terms for play calls and more — like how teams handle different defenses and what they run in late-game situations.
Powell, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, is the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy. There’s very little written about him and even though I’ve been covering the team for almost a decade, I don’t have any photos of him from the few games each season he sits behind the bench. Powell was around the team for training camp, a few games during the regular season and then would come to Indy for the first few games in the playoffs.
(Listen to my podcast with Powell from 2016 in the embedded player below.)
After three years as an assistant coach with the Vancouver Grizzlies, Powell was brought to Indianapolis by Pacers president Donnie Walsh. They are both from The Bronx and Walsh coached him in college.
With the Pacers for more than two decades, Powell worked for six different head coaches: Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Rick Carlisle, Jim O'Brien, Frank Vogel and Nate McMillan.
“They always appreciated what I did,” he said. “I never worked for a coach that didn’t appreciate advance scouting.”
Like most professions, advance scouting has been impacted by the pandemic. They’re not on the road like normal.
Still, Powell was planning to work one more season … but then the coaching staff was replaced. He had a very good relationship with McMillan, along with longtime assistant coach Dan Burke, who was not invited back.
Since last season, there have been numerous changes behind the scenes and to employees who had been there for decades.
Former scout Kevin Mackey, who was hired by Larry Bird in 2004, is also no longer with the franchise, sources said.
Neither is scout Jason Buckner, who left to become the Pistons’ director of college scouting.
Assistant coach Bill Bayno, the only holdover on the coaching staff, stepped away from his position midseason.
Powell appreciated his time with the Pacers because they were always competitive, which meant his work mattered. They missed the postseason just five times during his 21 years, something other advance scouts longed for.
“I was never in that position,” he said of teams with losing seasons. “There was always something to play for so I really enjoyed my job. I loved what I did and I know it wasn’t easy, the travel was tough, but I enjoyed it.
“I have no regrets about retiring. I just felt like it was a good time to get out.”
His favorite experience was the 2000 NBA Finals against the Lakers. He still remembers a foul call that he believed may have cost them the series.
Powell has over 1.7 million Marriott points in his account and hopes to use some on a trip to Hawaii and his annual trip to New York City for multiple Broadway shows once things return to normal.
As a well-respected scout, he had opportunities with other teams but he wasn’t interested. He was ready for time at home and on the golf course.
The Pacers replaced Powell, hiring Gary Schmidt, per league sources.
Schmidt served as the Celtics’ advance scout the last six seasons, but his contract was not renewed in the offseason.
“Gary is one of my best friends in the league,” Powell said. “He’s the best. The Pacers did an unbelievable job of getting him. He’s very thorough, very conscientious and he embraces the job.”
When Powell was an assistant coach for the Vancouver Grizzlies in the late ‘90s, Schmidt was their video coordinator. Schmidt was with the Grizzlies for 18 seasons, later promoted to director of pro scouting.
Like Nate Bjorkgren (Storm Lake, Iowa) and GM Chad Buchanan (Des Moines, Iowa), Schmidt is from Iowa — Readlyn, specifically.
“Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know him better,” Bjorkgren said on Thursday. “I knew of him for a long time, knowing where he’s from. He has a lot of respect around the league. He does his job very, very well.”