Should a change ultimately occur on the bench, Mike D’Antoni is once again considered the leader in the clubhouse to fill Indiana’s opening, sources said. But could a few games and the play-in tournament be enough to prevent any turnover?
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Bjorkgren replaces Nate McMillan, who was fired on Aug. 26 after four seasons at the helm. McMillan was 183-136 with the Pacers but failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Indiana was swept by the Heat in the opening round last month. Sixers assistant Ime Udoka, Heat assistant Dan Craig and Pelicans assistant Chris Finch were also finalists for the position, sources told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The Jump: Woj: Pacers agree to hire former Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach “I’m happy for him. The Pacers got a good one” – Nurse #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #WeTheNorth #IndianaStyle pic.twitter.com/Y9UqcfHDaj
The Indiana Pacers announced Tuesday that they have hired Nate Bjorkgren as head coach. Per team policy, the terms of the contract were not released. Bjorkgren (pronounced BEE-ork-gren) served as assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors during the past two seasons (2018-20), and helped the Raptors win their first NBA Championship during the 2018-19 season. He also served as player development coordinator and assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns for two seasons from 2015-17 before joining the Raptors as an advanced scout during the 2017-18 season.
“We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach,” said President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time. He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward.”
“I am honored to take on the role as head coach of the Indiana Pacers,” said Bjorkgren. “This is something I have prepared for during my career. I want to thank Kevin, Chad (Buchanan), Kelly (Krauskopf), Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Herb and Steve Simon for this opportunity. I also want to thank Nick Nurse for giving me my first professional coaching job 14 years ago.” “I’m looking forward to working with this great team to achieve our goal as NBA Champions.”
J. Michael: The reason, I’m told, for this hire: “Adaptability.” #Pacers
While Nurse is hardly surly, especially when it comes to the typical never-satisfied disposition of head coaches, Bjorkgren is a check on Nurse’s occasional bouts with realism. It is easy to picture Bjorkgren smiling, no matter the size of his salary. “The biggest thing is he’s a super-positive guy,” Nurse said. “He’s the guy sitting next to me when I’m sensing disaster going on in a game and he’s saying, ‘We’re gonna win, we’re gonna come back.’ Constantly, ‘We’re gonna do it, we’re gonna come back.’ And that helps me out quite a bit.”
“Nate is the…,” Kyle Lowry said before restarting his sentence. “Yeah, I would say he is the f—— man.”
“He would literally be substitute teaching in the morning, come to practice over lunch break or whatever, and then go back to the school and do whatever he had to do there, and then come back after that and watch film or evaluate players,” said Keith “Lefty” Moore, who was an assistant with the Energy in the team’s first season. “We were always evaluating players in the D-League. “I knew that Nate was always hustling and that Nate definitely had a passion for the game. I remember we used to talk about things a lot, and Nate used to say, ‘My goal is to coach at the highest level.’”
Shams Charania: The Indiana Pacers are hiring Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
J. Michael Falgoust: The Pacers’ new coach is Raptors asst Nate Bjorkgren, a league source tells @IndyStarSports
According to a source, Heat assistant coach Dan Craig made a strong impression during his Friday interview for the Indiana Pacers head coaching job. New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach Chris Finch is still considered the favorite to replace Nate McMillan, who was dismissed after his team was swept by the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
Barry Jackson: Was told Heat assistant Dan Craig impressed in Pacers interview yesterday. Pelicans associate head coach Chris Finch considered favorite for Indy job but Craig made strong case, not surprisingly
Scott Agness: In coaching search news: Sources say the Pacers have been notifying candidates as they narrow their wide-ranging search to a handful of names.
Chauncey Billups is expected to join Lue’s staff with the Clippers, sources said, although he’s involved currently in the Indiana Pacers’ search for a head coach.
Kevin O’Connor: Sources: Chris Finch is considered the frontrunner to be the next Pacers head coach. Finch has been with the Pelicans since 2017. Heat assistants Chris Quinn and Dan Craig will interview with Indiana next. Chauncey Billups and Dave Joerger previously had convos with Indiana.
J. Michael Falgoust: Victor Oladipo and the #Pacers have talked, I’m told, a couple times recently. As for the coaching search, there’s no rush to wrap it up. Could easily be a few more weeks
Malika Andrews: Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham is set to interview for the Clippers head coaching job this week, sources told ESPN. Ham, who is also a finalist for the Pacers’ head coaching spot, will meet in person with the Indiana brass over the next few days.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Pacers are meeting candidates this week and next, a roster of interviews that so far has included former Grizzlies/Kings coach Dave Joerger and Pelicans assistant Chris Finch, sources tell ESPN. Joerger is a strong contender in process. Chauncey Billups gets a sit-down soon too.
Adrian Wojnarowski: “Mike Dantoni wants to coach. He had a very successful run in Houston advancing to the second round of the playoffs a couple of times, to the Conference Finals against Golden State and losing in Game 7. He was very intrigued with the Philadelphia situation. There are still openings out there… I think one that bears watching perhaps is Indiana. The Pacers are still in the early stages of a search. They’ve been talking to candidates, they haven’t really narrowed the field down too far yet. Still in the range of 5-6 candidates, so it will be very interesting to see if Mike D’Antoni and Indiana… If there’s a conversation at the very least for them to have.”
Frank Isola: Toronto assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the Indiana Pacers job, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse confirms on @SiriusXMNBA
Mike D’Antoni’s next coaching job will likely wind up being with the Indiana Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers, league sources tell BasketballNews.com.
Former Thunder coach Billy Donovan interviewed for the Pacers last week, sources said. The Pacers are expected to interview a pool of around 12 candidates, trim the candidates approximately in half, and conduct in-person interviews.
Scott Agness: FWIW: In the latest odds for Pacers head coach, Chauncey Billups (5/2), Mike D’Antoni (7/2) and Kenny Atkinson (5/1) are the favorites, according to @betonline_ag.
Five-time NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups has emerged as a candidate in the Indiana Pacers’ coaching search, sources told ESPN. As the Pacers begin preliminary interviews with a number of candidates, Billups and the Pacers officials have recently engaged and are planning to talk further conversations about the job, sources said.
For the Pacers’ management team and Billups, there will be a process of getting to know each other in these interviews and discussing the depth of Billups’ preparedness for the job — and how they’d work together to build a coaching staff around him. Billups’ force of personality, leadership style and basketball savvy has long made many NBA executives believe it was just a matter of time until Billups landed a significant role with an organization, but thus far he’s been searching for the right fit.
Does this mean he’s hiring Hammon? Of course not. Nor am I saying he should. That’s not the point of this story. Point is: Hammon is a fascinating candidate, and the Pacers have a history of being out in front on this issue. And the NBA is inching closer to its first female head coach. Eleven women were NBA assistants this past season, including former Notre Dame star Niele Ivey of the Memphis Grizzlies. She’s not there anymore; Notre Dame hired her in April to replace McGraw.
The Pacers are said to have serious interest in hiring D’Antoni to replace the suddenly ousted Nate McMillan, which would give a needed jolt to Oladipo and Myles Turner. But there’s no guarantee they get D’Antoni — even with his contract in Houston about to expire and pressure mounting on the Rockets’ coach with a Game 7 looming Wednesday night against Chris Paul and the Thunder.
Eric Woodyard: Pacers Prez of Bball Ops Kevin Pritchard says they’ll consider a college coach during this search. The ability to connect with younger players will be huge throughout this process, but it won’t rule out an established older coach either. “Let’s keep an open mind,” Pritchard said.
J. Michael Falgoust: Pritchard on what he wants to see in next coach: “A modern approach. Communication would probably be my top thing. Playing more of a modern game. You’ve got to look to the future. Look where the hockey puck is going, not so much where it is” #Pacers
Adrian Wojnarowski: Mike D’Antoni isn’t an inexpensive hire and that’ll be a question for Pacers and small market teams with league revenue stagnant in pandemic: How far will they go to pay a coach? Indiana also plans to search pool of those they’d consider ‘program builders’ over long-term, per sources.
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May 15, 2021 | 4:07 pm EDT Update
Mark Medina: Lakers coach Frank Vogel on LeBron James’ return: “He’s looked really good.” Vogel added that “obviously it’s going to take time before he gets to be 100%.” But he noted that LeBron showed encouraging signs
Scott Agness: Caris LeVert isn’t sure what caused the deep bruise in his right knee and admits he’s playing through pain, but says every guy is playing with something right now. Pacers play their 5th game in 7 days tomorrow.
J. Michael Falgoust: Bjorkgren on getting any injured players back for finale or the play-in: “I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to see. I haven’t had 100 percent confirmation from any of them that they’d be back tomorrow (v Toronto) for the last regular season game or even going forward.” #PacersLakers