Pacers hiring Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach

After the Rio Grande Valley Vipers beat the Santa Cruz Warriors in the 2013 D-League Finals, Vipers coach Nick Nurse and Warriors coach Nate Bjorkgren shook hands. Nurse told Bjorkgren, “There’s no reason why we couldn’t do this at the next level.” Nurse eventually became Raptors head coach, guided them to a championship in his first season and is now recognized as one of the NBA’s top coaches.

Now, Bjorkgren – who worked as an assistant under Nurse in Toronto – will get his chance with the Pacers.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

This was an odd saga, starting with firing Nate McMillan two weeks after announcing his contract extension. Mike D’Antoni and Chris Finch took turns as rumored favorites.

Now, Bjorkgren lands the job.

Bjorkgren got his start as a high school coach then became an assistant coach (under Nurse) and eventually head coach in the NBA’s minor league. In each stop, his teams won. Bjorkgren then became an assistant with the Suns and Raptors.

He developed a reputation for competitiveness that should fit a team always trying to win in the short-term. The big question: Will he implement the right strategies to make it happen?

His success at lower levels shows he can handle being in charge. Time in the NBA adds perspective.

But he has never been head coach of a team with a star player seeking a max contract and considering leaving in free agency the next year. Victor Oladipo is one challenge. Managing the unique big-man pairing of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis is another.

Bjorkgren gets his opportunity to show he’s up to the task.

After Nurse’s success, this could be the start of open floodgates on former or current minor-league coaches getting NBA head-coaching jobs.

Report: Pacers hiring Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach originally appeared on


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