(INDIANAPOLIS) — The Indiana Pacers’ new coach is promising a team more willing to take risks on offense and defense.
Nate Bjorkgren says he wants a disruptive and aggressive team on both offense and defense, more willing to use the three-point line and switch defenses unexpectedly. It’s a style of play Bjorkgren honed in six years as an assistant to Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse, two in Toronto and four in the D-League.
President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard says the Pacers were specifically looking for an innovative coach who won’t play it safe. He says that approach may come at a cost early in the season, but says analyzing those early failures will make the Pacers a stronger team in the playoffs. The Pacers have made five straight first-round exits, including all four seasons under ousted coach nate McMillan.
Pritchard says the Pacers interviewed 12 or 13 candidates via Zoom, including at least one woman — San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon had been rumored to be in the mix. Pritchard says the Pacers brought six finalists to Indy for in-person interviews. He says Bjorkgren stands out as both an on-court strategist and as a coach who can communicate with players in a positive way.
Bjorkgren says he’s already talking with the players, including a conversation with two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo, who he says texted him soon after his hiring was announced Tuesday. And Bjorkgren is already acquainted with T.J. Warren, the Pacers’ leading scorer last year. He coached Warren during a rehab assignment with the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam. He calls Warren “a big-time scorer and an even better person,” and says Warren’s game has gotten better since then.