Kevin Pritchard: 'No decisions have been made' on Nate Bjorkgren's future

Pacers president says the team is still evaluating the future of their first-year coach.

From News Services

The Pacers went 34-38 in their first season under coach Nate Bjorkgren.

Indiana Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren seems to have a future with the team that is very much undecided.

President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard addressed the media on Monday, days after the Pacers’ season ended in a 142-115 loss to the Washington Wizards in the State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament. Per J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, Pritchard said no decision has been made on Bjorkgren’s future with the team.

“No decisions have been made,” Pritchard said at a news conference Monday. “I’m being evaluated. I’m being evaluated every day. (Team owner) Herb (Simon) has to decide if I’m fit for this job and what I need to improve on. Then Nate and I will have a long conversation over many days on what he needs to improve on.

“He is our coach as of now and I’ll have a fair discussion with him.”

Pritchard is embarking on yet another offseason filled with questions, the first being whether to keep coach Bjorkgren.

Pritchard hired the 45-year-old former Raptors assistant in October, hopeful he could forge tight bonds with players and implement a new philosophy to keep his team fresh for a long postseason run.

It didn’t work.

Rumors of internal strife surfaced late in the season, which culminated with an embarrassing 142-115 season-ending loss at Washington.

Pritchard said he was aware of some of the complaints players had about Bjorkgren “micromanaging,” but he also saw some positives to Bjorkgren’s style.

“In the exit meetings, no one said they they were unhappy,” Pritchard said. “Yes, they said he micromanages. … I’ve got a young coach with super talent and X and Os but needs some (improvement) in human management.”

Bjorkgren went 34-38 in his first season as an NBA coach after spending several seasons as an assistant under Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Indiana romped past the Charlotte Hornets in their Play-In opener, but put forth a disappointing showing in the Play-In finale.

Defense, rebounding, an inability to close out games and injuries hampered Indiana. It finished 25th in the league in points allowed (115.3), had the fourth-worst rebounding differential (minus-4.1) and blew 17 fourth-quarter leads. Had they been better in any of those areas, the Pacers probably would have made their sixth straight playoff appearance.

T.J. Warren, Indiana’s top scorer in 2019-20, went down with a season-ending left foot injury in late December. Myles Turner, the NBA’s blocks champion, didn’t return after hurting his right foot in mid-April. Caris LeVert, who was acquired in a January trade for Victor Oladipo, missed both Play-In games after entering the league’s health and safety protocols.

Chuck, Ernie, Kenny and Shaq recap the Pacers' season after being eliminated from the Play-In Tournament.

“This has been the most unique and challenging year I’ve ever been a part of,” Pritchard said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pritchard hired Bjorkgren to replace Nate McMillan, who started the season as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks. He took over after Lloyd Pierce was fired this season and McMillan is now coaching the Hawks in the playoffs against New York — a series Atlanta leads 1-0.

Even if Bjorkgren does return, then Pritchard may need to make some roster changes.

While all five starters are under contract next season, McDermott and NBA steals champ T.J. McConnell can become free agents. Fans are also wondering whether the defensive struggles were the result of Bjorkgren not having the right cast.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.