When the Indiana Pacers set foot Wednesday night on The North for a matchup on the road against the Toronto Raptors, a familiar face could very well greet them. Former coach Nate Bjorkgren, who was fired after just one season manning the sidelines in the Circle City, is now back on Nick Nurse’s bench as an assistant coach.
Safe to say, Bjorkgren’s one-season tenure was certainly memorable for all the wrong reasons. After steering the Pacers to a great start last season, things swiftly took a downturn, with injuries causing lineup instability and off-court woes exacerbating the Blue and Gold’s standing, as the team eventually missed the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Former coach Nate Bjorkgren faces the Indiana Pacers for the first time since his ugly exit from the franchise
His one-sided weightage on the X’s and O’s of basketball, the primary impetus behind his surprising hiring, backfired. While the Indiana Pacers enjoyed offensive growth under his wing, it did not lead to many wins, as his experimental style on defense often seemed to be too frenzied and forced and culminated into Indy’s defensive aggression, some motifs of which are still noticeable up to this day.
Beyond the on-court product, however, is what doomed Bjorkgren and the Pacers last season and eventually led to his dismissal. His micromanagement and questionable style of communication, described as too rubbing, as well as his failure to build rapport not only with some players, but also with the assistant coaches and team staff, hurt his chances at a redo, even if though he had another guaranteed year on his deal with Indiana.
Now on the panel of coaches led by the highly creative Nick Nurse, Bjorkgren has a chance to reclaim himself in his comfort zone, bringing back his basketball wisdom to the organization he won a championship with as the Raptors attempt to rebuild with their young guns. He should be able to succeed in a reduced role, focusing on his on-court niche while improving himself on the interpersonal affairs of the NBA.
We can only hope that he doesn’t spill too many of the Indiana Pacers players’ habits to Toronto, as the Blue and Gold attempts to nab their second victory of the season to kick off a strenuous schedule facing them. Hopefully, no hard feelings subsist, and whoever the victor is, we can see Bjorkgren and his former cagers walk up to midcourt and exchange their pleasantries.