The Indiana Pacers have hired former Toronto Raptors assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach, according to Shams Charania.
“I am honored to take on the role as head coach of the Indiana Pacers,” Bjorkgren said in a statement released by the Pacers. “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.”
The Pacers first interviewed Bjorkgren for the job in late September.
Bjorkgren was Nurse’s assistant with the Raptors for the last two seasons, including the team’s championship in 2019.
The 45-year-old coach began his career in the G League as an assistant for Nurse with the Iowa Energy (now called Iowa Wolves) from 2007-2011.
He then held multiple G League coaching jobs before joining the Phoenix Suns coaching staff from 2015-2017.
Bjorkgren has won a G League championship and NBA championship, but this will be his first head coaching job.
The Pacers reportedly took notice in the “bubble” of how Nurse and his staff run the Raptors, including the way they connect with players, according to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.
This also includes shorter practices and more 1-on-1 time which is exactly what the Pacers wanted in their next coach.
Bjorkgren also coached current Pacers forward T.J. Warren at times back during his rookie year in 2014 when he was sent down for some G League games with the Bakersfield Jam (now Northern Arizona Suns), so the two are already somewhat familiar with each other.
Before choosing Bjorkgren, New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach Chris Finch was previously considered the favorite to land the Pacers’ job.
Only the Houston Rockets, Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder have head coaching vacancies now that the Pacers have their vacancy filled.