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Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard likes to test and challenge his head coaching candidates during interviews. When he tried to throw Nate Bjorkgren off his game, he found that he couldn’t do it.

With numerous coaches, players, and media members describing the new Pacers head man as one of the smartest up-and-comers in the industry, Pritchard told Dan Dakich on Wednesday that it didn’t take long for him to notice too.

“When you really get down to it, every time that I tried to mess (Bjorkgren) up he came back with a counter that I really liked,” Pritchard said. “When he sat down after drawing something on the board and I said ‘but’, he was already up there drawing another play. I wanted a guy that can think on the fly and come up with some unique things.”

Pritchard also mentioned that he was impressed with Bjorkgren’s ability to grind out his dream. After spending time in Arizona to start his career as a high school coach, Bjorkgren went to work with now Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse for free in the D-League. That is where Pritchard and Bjorkgren once met.

“I knew Nate from about 20-years-ago,” Pritchard added. “We had crossed paths in the Las Vegas. Nate was one of the last people we put in this process. He was a friend of our General Manager Chad Buchanan. We put him in there because we thought he’d do well, but we didn’t know just how well. After the first interview I was drawn in immediately because of his positivity and youthful exuberance.”

Is Bjorkgren the next Nurse, Frank Vogel, or Erik Spoelstra?

The common denominator of those three? They were all coaches who cut their teeth in the minor leagues or smaller NBA positions. Bjorkgren has certainly earned the opportunity, but the work is just beginning.

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