It’s never good when Woj reports your “future is uncertain.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly the latest on Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren. What’s even more concerning is the fact he’s been with the team for only one year and is already in rocky waters.
According to Woj, and confirmed by John Hollinger on the latest “Hollinger & Duncan,” Bojrkgren’s position is mostly in question because the star players, Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis, AND the assistant coaches can’t stand the guy. The fact the Pacers are 9th in an injury-riddled season is barely 3rd on the list. The assistant coaches part raised a lot of eyebrows around the NBA.
It’s not uncommon for star players to clash with a new head coach who has a new vision for the team. Still, it’s a major part of the job to sell your new vision to the star players. But when your own assistant coaches complain about “micromanaging” and express frustration about the day-to-day activities and attitude Bjorkgren demonstrated throughout the season, that’s a major problem. Woj reported that Bjorkgren expressed willingness to improve his demeanor and relationships with everyone on the team, but it seems like his days may be numbered. The very next night after Woj’s report, this happened.
Goga Bitadze let Harkless get to the rim for a 2nd chance dunk and got scolded for not contesting. After draining a 3, he told the Pacers’ assistant HC Greg Foster to “Sit the f**k down,” and as you saw, Foster didn’t appreciate the comment. To be fair, there’s a lot of situations like this on teams. But when it follows a Woj report about bad relationships revolving around the head coach and a blow-up like this happens, it’s not good.
Many people will jump to say this is another point in the “Nate McMillan deserved to keep his job” argument. I’m not sure I fully agree. Obviously, the team plateaued with McMillan at the helm, and changing the coach to possibly hire someone who can get more out of the roster is an acceptable way of thinking. The question is, was it McMillan or the roster that didn’t have the potential for more than a 1st round exit?
Obviously, the Pacers didn’t do a good enough job of making sure Bjorkgren understood the importance of building relationships with people before getting on them for every little thing. If you’re going to make a change from a proven good coach hoping to find a great one, you have to make sure the fundamentals are there. We’ll see if Bjorkgren will get another season to prove he learned his lesson, or the Pacers will decide to have a third head coach in three years.