The Indiana Pacers seem to have found themselves in a loop of head coaching headaches.
After signing former head coach Nate McMillan to an extension in last season’s NBA bubble, in what seemed like a reward for guiding them into the playoffs in a challenging season, the organization swiftly fired him without warning after they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
It’s a move that has aged poorly in every possible way, seven-plus months in.
The Heat went on to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. McMillan was hired by the Atlanta Hawks as an associate head coach, and then promoted to interim head coach after Lloyd Pierce was fired. Since then, the Hawks have steamrolled their way to a 21-10 record and sit fifth in the East.
As for the Pacers themselves, they went out and hired Nate Bjorkgren away from the Toronto Raptors. He was an analytics-driven coach, a jolt of modern energy after years with the old-school McMillen, and he came from Nick Nurse’s championship coaching tree.
The Indiana Pacers hired Nate Bjorkgren as head coach mere months ago, but reports indicate that he may be on the hot seat with his new team.
The Pacers got off to a nice start on the season before the injuries that always seem to afflict this roster and its players inevitably struck. They traded Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster four-team deal that saw James Harden end up with the Brooklyn Nets, and they received Caris LeVert in exchange.
LeVert was found to have a cancerous lump in his kidney and missed about two months of action as a result of its diagnosis, removal, and his subsequent recovery.
In spite of the fact that one of the stars of last season’s NBA bubble, T.J. Warren, only played four games this season, and Myles Turner has missed 19 games, it appears that the Indiana Pacers front office is already losing patience (Athletic paywall) with their new coach, Nate Bjorkgren.
If last season was bizarre, this season has been demonstrably more so. With injuries up and down the league, every team having postponed games due to COVID, it’s hard to get a real handle on where a team is at. Especially one like the Pacers with a plethora of players who tend to find themselves missing games with injuries every season.
After McMillan proved to be tough and hard-nosed for the players on this Pacers roster, it appears that Bjorkgren is also too abrasive for the players and even assistant coaches.
Of course, with less media access to the players and locker room than ever due to COVID restrictions and protocols, it’s hard to know just how drastic Bjorkgren’s behaviour is with his players and staff. It does bear noting, however, that two different coaches with different styles and methods of operation have rubbed the Pacers the wrong way.
Maybe the problem is with Bjorkgren. Maybe the problem is with the players. But ultimately, the Indiana Pacers themselves have a real issue. Every move they made regarding McMillan last season appears to have immediately backfired. Will they find themselves in a worse position than ever if they yield to their players’ desires once again and move on from Nate Bjorkgren?