The upbeat and positive reinforcement persona — the polar opposite of McMillan — played well during the interview process. One league executive with knowledge of Bjorkgren’s style called it “fake positivity” to IndyStar. Others drew similar conclusions, describing his delivery as awkward at best. As far back as December, in a shortened preseason, another league source with the team had raised red flags about Bjorkgren’s methods, as he coached from an iPad.
IndyStar has talked to multiple league sources who’ve worked with Bjorkgren, including at previous stops, and they shared first-hand experiences that paint a picture similar to what transpired during his one disastrous season in Indiana. The consensus: They were shocked he became an NBA head coach so soon. It wasn’t just his lack of experience, which can be overcome with adequate staff supporting him, but his methods.
Off the court, Bjorkgren wanted players to wear only team-issued sweats on the plane, two league sources with knowledge of the situation said. He also had banned headwear such as do-rags. Another source added that McMillan had his demands, too, such as wearing slacks, a nice shirt and sometimes a jacket.
On the court, it was about analytics to a fault. They governed all of his actions and conclusions. If a player shoots 20% when he dribbles more than twice going left, Bjorkgren expected him to be defended accordingly, regardless of the game's flow or his players’ basketball intuition.
A league source said Pritchard was so dismayed by the lack of effort and commitment that he saw from his team that he spoke to them before games against San Antonio and Atlanta late in the season. He also was so dismayed two other times that he went into the locker room postgame to scold them for their performances.
If he had been present for the May 3 embarrassment at Washington, when the Pacers gave up 82 points in the first half, he likely would've done it a third time. Caris LeVert, a league source with knowledge of the situation told IndyStar, was among those most incredulous about Bjorkgren's lack of adjustments for the second half of that game. It was far from the only time he'd feel that way.
This isn't a question of whether Bjorkgren knows Xs and Os. It's his stubbornness when confronted with mounting evidence that his way isn't working that has been an issue. And he ignored the importance of unifying the team — players, assistants and support staff included — to build a strong culture, a league source told IndyStar.
Although various media outlets have reported that Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis wanted Bjorkgren fired — IndyStar did not — that wasn't accurate, according to multiple league sources since March. No player went to management demanding a firing then or even during exit interviews.
Bjorkgren's rise has been attributed to being lucky more than qualified. He was in the right places at the right times. A native Iowan, like Nurse and Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, he received the benefit of any doubt because of those relationships, multiple league sources told IndyStar. His behavior differed toward those he saw as his equals or above him in rank, but he made sure those beneath him knew their place. This wasn't evident to Pacers management during the season, a league source said. They did have trouble building a strong staff around Bjorkgren because he wasn't connected and other assistants weren't leaving their situations to join him.
J. Michael Falgoust: No indication either Sabonis or Brogdon ever asked for Bjorkgren's dismissal. As I'd reported since the deadline, players thought he catered to them too much League sources today confirmed to @IndyStarSports that's where he lost them. Unwilling to hard coach his best players
Scott Agness: Kevin Pritchard on moving on from Nate Bjorkgren: "This was my decision. “If healthy, I think we can compete with any of those (top) teams. Once you get into that area — assume health, assume the team comes together — I think we’re a tough out."
Scott Agness: Pacers make the news official: Bjorkgren will not return. Kevin Pritchard: "The 2020-21 season was not what any of us hoped or anticipated it would be, and our results on the court certainly did not meet the standards for what our organization and our fans have come to expect."
JD Shaw: The Pacers have confirmed that Nate Bjorkgren will not be retained as head coach. Full statement from Kevin Pritchard: pic.twitter.com/clSaFU515G
After one tumultuous season, the Indiana Pacers fired coach Nate Bjorkgren on Wednesday, sources told ESPN. 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 said. Bjorkgren had one guaranteed year left on his original three-year contract, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Pacers have a roster that should be a solid Eastern Conference playoff team with Sabonis, Brogdon, LeVert, Turner and Warren -- and couldn't move forward with a young coach who struggled managing locker room and staff. Had Pacers been moving toward rebuild, maybe Bjorkgren stays.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Nate Bjorkgren is out as Indiana's coach, sources tell ESPN.
June 24, 2021 | 9:18 pm EDT Update
Tim MacMahon: Sources: Mavs have offered Nike executive Nico Harrison a front office leadership position. Dallas wants him to work in tandem with Michael Finley. Harrison and Finley are both close with Jason Kidd, who is expected to be the Mavs’ next head coach.
According to league sources, the Cavaliers have begun to explore trade options involving leading scorer Collin Sexton. Sexton, 22, is extension-eligible this summer, averaged 24.3 points per game last season, and appears likely to seek a maximum contract. Also eligible for an extension is 23-year-old center Jarrett Allen, who is also expected to command a lucrative deal.
Based on some of the chatter I heard over the course of this season, there was enough love for Cade Cunningham atop the draft that he felt easy to pencil in, regardless of who won the lottery. That no longer appears to be the case. In addition to Cunningham, league sources expect USC’s Evan Mobley and G League Ignite’s Jalen Green to receive serious consideration from the Pistons’ front office, led by general manager Troy Weaver. The strong sense I’ve gotten is that Detroit will explore all its options before committing one way or another, and that the decision on who to take is far from a done deal.
Wrapping up with some minutiae: as it turns out, the Pistons and Cavaliers got lucky twice on lottery night. The way the lottery works is that the league draws combinations for the first four slots in order, with any team repeats being thrown out and re-drawn. According to a source with knowledge of the proceedings, the NBA had to draw six times for four slots, with the order being Detroit, then Houston, then Detroit again, then Cleveland, Cleveland again, and finally, Toronto. Conspiracy theorists, do your worst.
Chris Fedor: #Cavs will do their due diligence during this process. They’ve interviewed Corey Kispert, Keon Johnson, Ziaire Williams, Sharife Cooper (he’s not 6-3 like listed, a source said), Miles McBride & BJ Boston along w/ Scottie Barnes. Kai Jones & Jalen Johnson the notables Friday
Chris Grenham: Providence’s David Duke Jr. tells me he will begin his pre-draft workouts w/ teams after the combine. He has yet to interview with the Celtics, but he has thought about playing in Boston: “Being a hometown kid, I definitely had dreams of playing for the Celtics one day.”