Pacers hire Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach

William Lou
·NBA reporter
·2 min read

The Indiana Pacers have hired former Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their head coach, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Bjorkgren was the right-hand man to Nick Nurse, who earned 2020 Coach of the Year honours for guiding the Raptors to the second-best record in the NBA during the regular season. Nurse was first promoted to head coach in 2018, and one of his first moves was to add Bjorkgren as a top assistant.

Nurse and Bjorkgren have history dating back to the D-League, where Bjorkgren and Nurse shared the sidelines for the Iowa Energy. Bjorkgren was then named as the head coach of what eventually became the Santa Cruz Warriors, and coached against Nurse in the 2012 Finals. Nurse likes to tell a story of that series, where he shook Bjorkgren’s hand after the final buzzer and predicted that they would be doing the same job at the next level in a few years times.

Indiana fired Nate McMillan earlier this year after the Pacers flamed out in the first round for the fifth-straight season dating back to when the Raptors eliminated them in 2016. McMillan went 183-136 in the regular season with the Pacers, but they could not ever advance past the first round despite multiple changes to the roster. Indiana had been linked to former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, but have instead went with a new name in Bjorkgren.

As for the Raptors, Nurse had anticipated members of his staff being promoted elsewhere, and had previous hinted at promotions from within. The Raptors have several developmental coaches who could be given a bigger role in tactics and game managing. Nurse is also known to be close with Chris Finch, who was previously the lead assistant with the New Orleans Pelicans before they fired Alvin Gentry.

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