It was a tumultuous rookie season for former Toronto Raptors assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
On the court, the Pacers were a little bit all over the place. They lacked consistency in the lineup and after an 8-4 start to the season that brought hope to Indiana, Bjorkgren’s group fell apart with injury issues and found itself on the outside of the Eastern Confernece’s playoff picture. Off the court, things were much worse. There were reports of tension within the organization and it couldn’t have been easy for Bjorkgren to see his name pop up in so many negative headlines.
“My thoughts are that it’s certainly no fun for him and it’s no fun for me to see one of my best friends go through that,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of his former assistant in early May. “It hurts to see him go through it.”
Nurse said there was absolutely no truth to the reporting that Bjorkgren was difficult to deal with in Toronto. Multiple Raptors players sung the praises of Bjorkgren including Fred VanVleet who said anyone who doesn’t like Bjorkgren must be crazy.
All that being said, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard was non-committal on Bjorkgren’s future with the organization.
“You don’t win 34 games with a decimated roster without doing some good things,” Pritchard said of his head coach. “But there are some things that we need to do better, he needs to do better. Right now, no decisions have been made. We’re not making a decision today, we don’t make decisions in a vacuum, we take our time.”
Pritchard said he thought some of the reporting was “B.S.” but he didn’t entirely deny the reports that Bjorkgren was difficult for some players to deal with. He attributed some of that to the constant changes the team endured during the year and players uneasiness changing roles so frequently. While nobody said they were unhappy with Bjorkgren during the team’s exit interviews, according to Pritchard, some people did say Bjorkgren does micromanage things a little bit.
“To me, as a new coach, trying to set your ways – I’m pretty sure some people think Bill Belichick micromanages, and Nate had to find his identity,” Pritchard said.
The Pacers are going to take some time to evaluate things before making a decision either way, Prichard said, but for now they’re not going to commit either way to sticking with or firing Bjorkgren.