The Pacers decided to part ways with head coach Nate Bjorkgren after his first year on the job, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Bjorkgren was informed Wednesday of the Pacers’ decision to let him go after meeting with management on Tuesday. The team intends to seek a more experienced and established head coach to replace Bjorkgren, who lost his dressing room and “much of the organization” this season, Wojnarowski adds.
The Pacers left Nate McMillan a year ago after a fourth straight first-round playoff outing in hopes of hiring a new coach who would modernize the team’s offense and increase its limit. Although Bjorkgren helped improve Indiana’s offense, the defense took a big step back, and the former Raptors assistant supposedly had main communication problems with players and coaches alike.
reports During the final weeks of the regular season it indicated that Bjorkgren was in the hot seat, and not securing a playoff spot in the play-in tournament presumably didn’t help his chances of staying.
Given the number of injuries the Pacers dealt with during the 2020-21 season, it’s unclear how much more another coach could have left the list. Given that Bjorkgren had one more guaranteed year on his contract, there was a belief that the small market Pacers might have preferred to give him another shot rather than have to financially commit to a second head coach contract. However, it seems that the problems with Bjorkgren were too widespread to make continuing the relationship a viable option.
Indiana becomes the fourth team to enter the market for a new head coach this spring, joining Boston, Portland and Orlando. Because they conducted an exhaustive search for a coach in 2020 before landing at Bjorkgren, the Pacers may already have a head start in this year’s search as they have become familiar with several candidates who could be on their radar again. However, new candidates will also be considered.
One of those new candidates, who was unavailable a year ago, is former Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Chris Haynes from Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers are expected to take a look at Stotts, while Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer says (via Twitter) League sources have increasingly identified Stotts as one of the top candidates for the job in Indiana.
Regarding Bjorkgren’s future, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, approx. tweets You wouldn’t be surprised if Nick Nurse’s former assistant, and good friend, ends up returning to Toronto. The Raptors lost a top assistant midway through the 2020-21 season when Chris Finch was hired as Minnesota’s head coach, and Nurse strongly defended Bjorkgren amid negative reports last month.