- The Indiana Pacers have fired head coach Nate Bjorkgren after just one season with the team.
- Bjorkgren reportedly lost control of his locker room and had relationship issues with players and staff.
- Indiana is said to be seriously looking at former Blazers head coach Terry Stotts who has the coaching experience to lead the Pacers’ veteran crew.
Last week, the best NBA betting sites listed Nate Bjorkgren (-200) as the next NBA coach to get fired. That didn’t happen. It was Portland’s Terry Stotts ( +1000) who got the first pink slip after the 2020-21 season. Then Orlando’s Steve Clifford was cut next. But if you thought that Bjorkgren was off the hook, you were wrong.
On Wednesday, the Pacers announced that they have terminated Bjorkgren after just one season as head coach. Bjorkgren still had one guaranteed year left on the three-year deal he signed with Indiana last offseason.
According to reports, Pacers management met with Bjorkgren last Tuesday to discuss his future with the team. In that meeting, team officials decided that the gap between him and the team’s veteran locker room which had playoff aspirations was just too much to patch up that the team has to move into another direction.
Said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard:
“This was my decision. This was a really tough decision, one that had a lot of thought behind it. I brought in my management team, something we didn’t do lightly.””There are certain things (traits) that are non-negotiables for me going forward. I hope I’ve learned from this in terms of selecting the right coach.”
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) May 5, 2021
Bjorkgren was hired to replace Nate McMillan as head coach but sources said he struggled with the temperament to deal with players and staff as a head coach, especially with Indiana’s veteran core. The Pacers believed in his coaching resume and might have kept him if they were headed to a rebuild. But with a veteran core of Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Caris LeVert, the organization is committed to fighting for a championship.
Last month, it was widely reported that Bjorkgren could be in trouble in Hoosier Land due to relationship issues in the Pacers’ locker room. According to the reports, Bjorkgren was a combative coach who had a good relationship with the front office but not with his players.
Indiana’s bubble superstar T.J. Warren reportedly decided to undergo season-ending surgery rather than play for Bjorkgren this season. Likewise, assistant coach Billy Bayno reportedly resigned earlier this season because he does not want to work with Bjorkgren anymore.
Terry Stotts to Indiana?
Terry Stotts ➡️ Indiana Pacers? 👀 pic.twitter.com/wdEMVGsHrO
— theScore (@theScore) June 9, 2021
With Bjorkgren’s departure, the Pacers are expected to take another look at the nearly 20 candidates they interviewed last year before hiring Bjorkgren, if they are still available. With Indiana’s goal to compete next season, Pritchard and the Indiana management team is reportedly putting a premium on head-coaching experience in the NBA.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes said that reliable sources revealed the Pacers are seriously taking a look at former Blazers’ head coach Terry Stotts as Bjorkgren’s replacement. Stotts led the Blazers to eight straight playoff appearances but was fired last week after his inability to take the team over the hump.
With over 1,000 NBA games coached, Terry Stotts fits the bill in Indiana when it comes to experience and winning pedigree. He never had issues with his players in nine seasons in Portland. Stotts also has a Hoosier connection as he went to high school in Bloomington North and was a member of the 1976 Indiana All-Star team.