The Indiana Pacers long process of finding their next head coach came to a final decision on Tuesday afternoon.
Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren is the new man in the 317. After a long career primarily spent by the side of Raptors coach Nick Nurse, the Iowa native is getting a chance to run his own NBA squad.
Bjorkgren (pronounced BEE-ORK-GREN), began his coaching journey in 2004 in the high school ranks at Cactus Shadows in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Since then, he went through the grind of the NBA D-League when Nurse brought him on board as an assistant with the Iowa Energy. Nurse and Bjorkgren won a D-League title in Iowa before the new Pacers head man broke away to coach his own minor league team. The two then reunited in Toronto to eventually win the 2019 NBA Championship.
The situation will be different at Bankers Life Fieldhouse though. The Pacers don’t have Kawhi Leonard here and ready to win a title. It’s going to take some work.
On The Dan Dakich Show Tuesday, DD welcomed an old coaching friend and current Raptors TV analyst Jack Armstrong to detail the new hire.
“This is a guy that has paid his dues and taken all the steps,” Armstrong said. “In my opinion he is completely ready for the opportunity he has earned with the Pacers. He’s innovative, smart, players not only respect him, but they like him. He will command respect, have energy, and hold guys accountable.”
With all the rumors circling over the last couple of months with Victor Oladipo, it’s hard to tell just how the roster may look when Bjorkgren coaches his first game downtown. But the situation in Toronto this past season may be a solid look at what the future may hold.
After they won their title, Leonard departed “The 6” and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. That left Nurse and his staff in a tough spot. But the Raptors did not seem phased and finished second in the Eastern Conference. Down in the Orlando bubble, they were eliminated in the second round by the Boston Celtics in seven games.
“When you look at what (Bjorkgren) did, he did everything,” Armstrong explained. “(Nurse) would split up the scouting assignments. And when you spoke of the offensive game plans in particular, Nate had a lot of input on that significantly. In my two years working with Nate, I really enjoyed talking basketball with him. He carried himself like a guy who had full command in what was going on.”
Bjorkgren beat out other top candidates rumored for the job such as New Orleans’ Chris Finch, Miami’s Dan Craig, and former Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni. Armstrong told DD that the 45-year-old Bjorkgren is full of energy and ready to go.
“When you look at the profile of a guy who in my opinion can be a successful head coach in the league, I like it,” Armstrong added. “You will get his best.”
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