The drama ain’t over, folks! After their blow-up on the court, Goga Bitadze and assistant coach Greg Foster will both suffer consequences. The Pacers suspended Foster for one game, and Bitadze was fined for his inappropriate comment towards the assistant coach. If you missed it, Foster scolded Bitadze after he missed a defensive rotation. On the next play, Bitadze drained a three and, while getting back on defense, told Foster to “sit the f**k down.”
Seemingly the biggest dust-up in the Pacers organization is probably the least concerning one. Each assistant has a group of players he works more closely with, and Bitadze is one of Foster’s guys. That’s why Foster felt compelled to call him out in the first place. The two talked it out shortly after the game, and both expressed a desire to move on past the incident and continue their working relationship. This happens all the time, but usually not in front of cameras. What’s more concerning is described in Woj’s latest article on this topic.
“The crux of the Pacers’ issues has run much deeper this season, centered squarely on the first-year head coach’s struggles to command respect within the locker room and the broader organization because of what sources have described as a volatile and abrasive style in his coaching and personal interactions. Bjorkgren’s job is in peril at season’s end, sources said.”Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN
Bleacher Report published a story by Jake Fischer that cited multiple anonymous sources from Bjorkgren’s G-League, Suns, and Raptors stints, all describing a man difficult to work with. The comments ranged from “stubborn, won’t listen” and “doesn’t mind embarrassing his coaches” to Bjorkgren being described as a “Jekyl and Hyde.” It’s not a good sign when reporters can find sources from three different places describing a “politician,” someone who plays the office game to seem more friendly than he is. The overall conclusion is the Pacers fell in love with Bjorkgren’s Xs and Os and his high energy but failed to do their due diligence on the other part of coaching – communication. The most bombastic part of Fisher’s story concerns bubble star T.J. Warren.
“Nor did they consult with last year’s Orlando bubble breakout player T.J. Warren—who played under Bjorkgren in Phoenix—according to sources. There is a belief among several members of the Pacers organization that Warren requested a trade upon learning of Bjorkgren’s hire and has no interest in playing for Bjorkgren.”Jake Fisher, BR
Warren responded to this report in a tweet saying, “Don’t use me to push false narratives,” and the article itself stated BR sources within Warren’s camp said he is looking forward to rejoining the team next season, once fully recovered from his foot injury. Who knows, maybe that was said knowing Bjorkgren won’t be there when he returns.
While Bojrkgren expressed willingness to improve his communication style, the odds are his days in Indiana are numbered. Before he was hired, Mike D’Antoni was rumored to be the favorite for the job. Whoever the Pacers hire, one thing’s for sure. They’ll place a lot more calls to former players and coworkers before anyone’s selected.