After a tumultuous season, the Indiana Pacers fired coach Nate Bjorkgren on Wednesday.
Pacers management met with Bjorkgren on Tuesday to discuss his future and ultimately decided that the disconnect between him and a veteran locker room with playoff aspirations had created an insurmountable gulf, sources told ESPN. Bjorkgren had a guaranteed year left on his original three-year contract, sources said.
“The 2020-21 season was not what any of us expected or anticipated it would be, and our on-court results certainly did not meet the standards of what our organization and our fans expect,” the president of operations said in a statement. Pacers basketball player Kevin Pritchard. “We have determined that this is the right time to move in a different direction, and on behalf of the Simon family and the entire Pacers organization, I want to express my gratitude to Nate for his efforts in leading our team.”
Indiana interviewed nearly 20 candidates a year ago and may return to some of the candidates that are still available. The head coaching experience is expected to be a premium element of the Pacers’ upcoming search process, sources said.
Bjorkgren was hired to replace Nate McMillan, but sources said he struggled with the necessary temper to deal with players and staff as head coach. The Pacers believed in his coaching acumen, and could have retained him if they had decided to move toward rebuilding, but the organization remains committed to building on its core of Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner to move toward becoming a contender for playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana’s six-year playoff streak ended this season after losing to the Washington Wizards in a play-in tournament to win the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Indiana was 34-38.
Bjorkgren had been an assistant with Toronto and Phoenix and had experience as a G League head coach.
There are now four head coach openings in the NBA: Boston, Indiana, Orlando and Portland. McMillan is currently the interim coach at Atlanta, but the expectation is that he will be rewarded with a new contract after the playoffs.