Nate Bjorkgren has been fired as the coach of the Indiana Pacers after a troubled first season in the role, the team announced Wednesday following media reports of his ouster.
Bjorkgren “will not be retained as the team’s head coach,” according to a statement from the Pacers.
“The 2020-21 season was not what any of us hoped or anticipated it would be, and our results on the court certainly did not meet the standards for what our organization and our fans have come to expect,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard.
“We have determined this is the right time to move in a different direction, and on behalf of the Simon Family and the entire Pacers organization, I want to express my gratitude to Nate for his efforts leading our team,” Pritchard said. “While we do not have a definite timetable for our search, we will move quickly to identify candidates who will make our team and our organization stronger.”
The Pacers finished the regular season 34-38 and ninth in the Eastern Conference, which many pundits considered underwhelming for a club with several high-caliber veterans.
Indiana also posted its first losing home record in 32 seasons, in a mostly empty arena. The team finished 25th in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing 115.3 points a game.
ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news of Bjorkgren’s dismissal earlier on Wednesday.
“Pacers are expected to pursue a more experienced, established head coach in this process,” Wojnarowski tweeted. “Bjorkgren lost locker room and much of organization in his one year as coach.”
Bjorkgren joined the Pacers after serving as an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns. He was expected to install a much more dynamic offense than the one favored by former coach Nate McMillan.
Bjorkgren’s relationships with players and members of the club’s front office reportedly soured over the season due to the coach’s abrasive style.
In early May, Bleacher Report published a story which questioned everything from Bjorkgren’s treatment of coaches and staff members to whether the Pacers did their homework before his hiring, even whether some Pacers players wanted to play for him.
That report followed a similar one from ESPN, which questioned Bjorkgren’s future with the team, noting there were communication problems within the organization and concerns about the relationships between the coach and his players.
At the end of the season, Pritchard said he was evaluating Bjorkgren but hadn’t made any decisions about his future with the club.
“You don’t win 34 games with a decimated roster without doing some good things, too,” Pritchard said at the time. “But there are some things that we need to do better, he needs to do better. Right now, no decisions have been made. We’re not making a decision today We don’t make decisions in a vacuum, we take our time and to be honest with you, I’m being evaluated. I’m being evaluated every day.”