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Pacers hire ex-Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach

The Indiana Pacers have hired Nate Bjorkgren to be their next head coach, the team announced Tuesday, confirming multiple reports of the move.

“We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. “This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time. He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward.”

Bjorkgren was an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors for the last two seasons and was on Nurse’s staff in the NBA G League, where they won the title together in 2010-11. He became the first assistant coach to win an NBA title (in 2019 with the Raptors) and a G League title (with the Iowa Energy in 2010-11). He was an advance scout for Toronto during the 2017-18 season.

“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.”

Prior to his time with the Raptors, Bjorkgren was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns from 2015-18, serving as a player development coach and assistant coach.

Bjorkgren, 45, has deep G League roots, amassing a 126-74 record during his four seasons there. He was 34-16 in one season with the Bakersfield Jam and led the Iowa Energy to the 2013-14 Central Division title and the 2012-13 Santa Cruz Warriors to the G League Finals. Before becoming coach of the Dakota Wizards in 2011-12, he spent four seasons with the Energy from 2007-11.

Bjorkgren (pronounced BEE-ork-Gren) replaces Nate McMillan, who was fired shortly after Indiana was swept in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. McMillan had been coach of the Pacers for four seasons.

A native of Storm Lake, Iowa, Bjorkgren played basketball collegiately at the University of South Dakota and Buena Vista University in Iowa.