Former Suns assistant Bjorkgren gets interview with Pacers

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Nate Bjorkgren, who was once considered a candidate for the vacant Phoenix Suns head coaching job in 2016, has his foot in the door with the Indiana Pacers.

Bjorkgren is after the job previously held by Nate McMillian. McMillian was fired last month after four seasons in Indiana. He led the Pacers to playoff appearances in all four years, but never advanced past the first round.

Bjorkgren was promoted to the Suns in 2015 after eight years in the D-League, most recently as head coach of the Suns affiliate, Bakersfield Jam (before they moved to Prescott Valley). His first gig was an assistant coach and the leading player development coordinator. Before he was officially hired he led the Summer Suns to a 5-2 record in the 2015 NBA Summer League.

In his first season he was promoted to a full-time assistant coach. After head coach Jeff Hornacek was fired in early 2016, Nate was under consideration to take the reins (partially because Hornacek’s top assistants, Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi had already been fired). That job went to Earl Watson, while Bjorkgren stayed on as an assistant.

Earl was fired in October of 2017 after an 0-3 start that featured spectacular losses. Nate and Mehmet Okur were also let go on that day, while lead assistant Jay Triano was promoted to the top job.

Bjorkgren immediately found work in the Toronto Raptors’ scouting department. The next year he was bumped up to assistant on Nick Nurse’s staff and won a championship a year later. Bjorkgren and Nurse have a long history together. Bjorkren and Nurse are the first coaches to win both an NBA and D-League titles, both times with Bjorkgren assisting Nurse. Bjorkgren was later the head coach of the D-league Suns affiliate Bakersfield Jam before moving up to the big club in 2016.

There are rumored to be a number of attractive candidates for the Pacers job, including former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, former NBA guard Chauncey Billups, current San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and current Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown.

The Pacers have been patient with the interview process, but some names said to be pursued by the team, most recently Billy Donovan, are now off the market. It’s probably time for Indiana to get moving.

Bright Side has a special place in its heart for Nate Bjorkgren ever since he sought out our editor, Dave King, at Media Day in 2016 to say how much he loved our blog and had his dream come true in making the Suns coaching staff. We wish you all the best, Nate!