“Nate Bjorkgren has been with me a long time. (He) was with me in the minor leagues with the Iowa Energy, then he coached a long time in the D-League and the G League and obviously been with me in Toronto here. He’s going to be a finalist for the Pacers job and he’s a good one,” Nurse said in an interview with Sirus XM NBA Radio.
Bjorkgren joined the Raptors in 2017 as a scout and was promoted to assistant coach when Nurse was named head coach in 2018. Before joining the Raptors, he was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns from 2015-17.
As Nurse mentioned, he gave Bjorkgren his first pro-coaching job back in 2007 as an assistant coach with D-League expansion team the Iowa Energy. They then coached against each other in the 2013 D-League final, with Nurse’s Rio Grande Vipers defeating Bjorkgren’s Santa Cruz Warriors. When the two coaches shook hands after that series, Bjorkgren says Nurse correctly predicted the two would coach in the NBA.
“He said, ‘There’s no reason why we couldn’t do this at the next level,’” Bjorkgren recalled in an interview with the Des Moines Register in 2019 after the Raptors won the NBA championship. “And sure enough, he’s been right on a number of things and he was right there again.”
The Pacers are looking for a new head coach after firing Nate McMillan in August, despite signing him to a contract extension only weeks before. The team reportedly interviewed Billy Donovan for the position, but the former Oklahoma City Thunder coach signed on with the Chicago Bulls Tuesday.
The Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans are also looking for new head coaches.