Late in the NBA regular season, reports surfaced that things were going poorly for the Indiana Pacers and their first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren.
It became clear that Bjorkgren had lost the locker room and a veteran team coming off a playoff appearance wilted down the stretch before being dismissed from the play-in tournament by the Washington Wizards. The Pacers battled injuries all season, but who didn’t in this COVID-ravaged campaign?
The Indiana Pacers moved swiftly to fire Nate Bjorkgren and begin their head coaching search. Who’s the next NBA coach to get the boot?
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bjorkgren met Wednesday with the Pacers and he was dismissed from his position as their head coach. It’s been a humiliating debacle for the organization because not only did their first-year coach not work out, and in disastrous fashion, but the coach they fired to hire him, Nate McMillan, has been a star for the past three months.
McMillan was fired last season immediately after getting swept out of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, who would go on to the NBA Finals. Then he signed on with the Atlanta Hawks as an associate head coach under Lloyd Pierce, who himself was fired. The Hawks promoted McMillan to interim head coach, and they caught fire. Since he took over at the beginning of March, the Hawks have gone 26-12, a 49-win pace over this 72-game season.
Only three teams finished with 49 or more wins this season; the Philadelphia 76ers, the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz.
So McMillan has his Hawks in the second round of the NBA playoffs, tied 1-1 with the top-seeded Sixers, and the Indiana Pacers once again have no head coach.
Now that Bjorkgren has been fired, he joins Steve Clifford, Terry Stotts and Brad Stevens (who was promoted to president of basketball operations by the Boston Celtics) as head coaches to have departed their position since the end of the regular season. Let’s take a look at who might be the next coach to get dismissed.
Mike Budenholzer – Milwaukee Bucks
Coming into the NBA playoffs, Mike Budenholzer’s name was tossed about as a likely firing candidate if his Milwaukee Bucks disappointed in the postseason. The Bucks made light work of the Miami Heat in the first round with a quick four-game sweep, but they appear to be woefully ill-equipped to handle the Brooklyn Nets in the second round.
There may be no shame in losing to the star-studded Nets in the playoffs, but the Bucks have found embarrassing ways to do it nonetheless. They trailed by 49 points in Game 2 and have barely shown the slightest bit of fight. Bud’s crew is going to have to step it up in a big way if he isn’t going to be shown the door in the next week or so.
Scott Brooks – Washington Wizards
Thanks to last season’s trade for Russell Westbrook, Scott Brooks may find himself to be bulletproof. But should he be? The Washington Wizards aren’t going to win any coaching battles with him on the sidelines, and he’s part of why the organization has a ceiling that appears to be right around where they were this season.
Brooks and Westbrook go way back to their shared time with the OKC Thunder, but this isn’t time for Westbrook to try to play general manager. Maybe Brooks needs to go, and there just isn’t anything Westbrook can or should do about it.
Luke Walton – Sacramento Kings
Speaking of embattled coaches who seem bulletproof, there may be no better example than Luke Walton with the Sacramento Kings. If you want to know where the skeletons are buried at the Golden 1 Center, it seems like Walton is the man to ask.
Walton has had consecutive 31-41 records with the Kings in his two years there, and his name is perpetually at the top of the list of coaches who could be on borrowed time. Eventually, his time will indeed run out, but will he be the first one of this trio to get the boot?