mcloudyn.png
Monday June 14th, 2021 2:27AM

Pacers fire Bjorkgren as coach after just 1 season

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Pritchard hired Nate Bjorkgren to take the Indiana Pacers in a new direction.

They went the wrong way.

A season filled with defensive struggles, missed chances and locker room drama resulted Wednesday in the firing of Bjorkgren after only one season as coach.

“This was my decision," said Pritchard, the Pacers' president of basketball operations. “This was a really tough decision, one that had a lot of thought behind it. I brought in my management team, something we didn’t do lightly.”

Pritchard expected the 45-year-old coach, who spent the previous two seasons as Nick Nurse's top assistant in Toronto, to make an impact with his new-age approach and his creativity. When the hiring was announced in October, Pritchard acknowledged he was betting big on a young coach.

It just didn't pay off.

Indiana went 34-38 before finishing the season with an embarrassing 142-115 loss to Washington in the play-in tournament — a fitting end to an abysmal season. The Wizards averaged 140.3 points in sweeping four games from the Pacers.

Indiana finished 25th in defensive scoring average (115.3 points), blew 17 fourth-quarter leads and produced its first losing record at home in 32 seasons.

Sure, injuries played a part in the results.

Indiana's top scorer from 2019-20, T.J. Warren, suffered a season-ending foot injury after playing just four games. NBA blocks champion Myles Turner went down with a season-ending foot injury on April 18. And after trading two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo for swingman Caris LeVert in January, LeVert missed the next 24 games because team doctors found a cancerous growth on his left kidney.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it," potential free agent Doug McDermott said at season's end.

But there was tumult behind the scenes, too.

While Warren publicly disputed a report that he didn't want to play for Bjorkgren following the season finale, other confrontations spilled into public view.

The injured Turner helped break up a spat between center Goga Bitadze and assistant coach Greg Foster during a game in early May. Team officials fined Bitadze and gave Foster a one-game suspension.

On May 24, Pritchard even acknowledged that players described Bjorkgren as a micromanager during their annual end-of-season interviews.

“We have a lot of firepower, a lot of guys who can score,” two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis said in May. “But we’re definitely going to have to sacrifice to get as far as we can in the playoffs. We have to come in with a different mindset next season.”

Even then, it appeared Bjorkgren's future with the Pacers was tenuous at best. Pritchard, who also drew criticism for the team's underwhelming results, didn't endorse Bjorkgren and instead explained what he thought went wrong and how it could be fixed.

Then he consulted with former Pacers president Donnie Walsh and had multiple discussions with Bjorkgren before making Wednesday's announcement.

“There are certain things (traits) that are non-negotiables for me going forward,” Pritchard said. “I hope I’ve learned from this in terms of selecting the right coach. Nate gets let go, but it’s my fault. We’ve got to do better.”

Not all of the problems in this unusual season were Bjorkgren's fault.

Pritchard said he challenged some current players to become more vocal leaders and that he might add another veteran to help hold the bench more accountable.

The Pacers have now fired two coaches in less than 12 months. Pritchard let go of Nate McMillan in August after a third consecutive first-round playoff exit and just weeks after announcing the coach had received a contract extension.

McMillan has since helped led the Atlanta Hawks into the second round of the playoffs this season after losing his final nine playoff games with the Pacers.

Now McMillan's successor is gone, too, albeit with next season's salary guaranteed.

Though Pritchard could move quickly after researching between 12 and 18 job candidates during last year's abbreviated offseason, Pritchard plans to spend this coaching search looking for someone who can get the Pacers turned around.

Maybe even a more experienced coach such as former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, a high school graduate of Bloomington North, about a one-hour drive from Indianapolis.

“I wanted to take a risk — maybe a lower floor and higher ceiling," Pritchard said. “Maybe this year we look at something a little different. I have something in my mind, but I don’t want to quite come forward with that yet.”

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Sports - NBA
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Nadal drops set, beats Schwartzman to reach French Open SF
Rafael Nadal’s French Open set streak is over but his pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title remains very much intact
1:49PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Pacers fire Bjorkgren as coach after just 1 season
The Indiana Pacers have fired Nate Bjorkgren after missing the playoffs in his only season as coach
1:45PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Sweat against Washington persuading players to get vaccine
Washington pass rusher Montez Sweat says he isn't a fan of the team attempting to persuade players to get vaccinated against COVID-19
1:33PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Washington's Sweat 'not a fan' of pushing vaccine on players
Washington pass rusher Montez Sweat says he isn't a fan of the team attempting to persuade players to get vaccinated against COVID-19
1:17PM ( 36 minutes ago )
Sakkari tops 2020 French champ Swiatek; 4 in 1st Slam SFs
Maria Sakkari has ended defending French Open champion Iga Swiatek's 11-match winning streak at Roland Garros in the quarterfinals
12:47PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Nadal drops set but moves into French Open SF
Rafael Nadal dropped a set for the first time at this year’s French Open but ultimately advanced to the semifinals for a record-extending 14th time
12:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Donovan Mitchell scores 45, rallies Jazz past the Clippers
Donovan Mitchell scored 45 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 112-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series
2:17AM ( 11 hours ago )
Shake Milton saves Sixers as Philly evens series with Hawks
Joel Embiid had 40 points and 13 rebounds and Shake Milton buried a 32-footer and scored 14 points in an electrifying stretch off the bench to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past the Atlanta Hawks 118-102
11:30PM ( 14 hours ago )
Nikola Jokic becomes lowest draft pick ever to win MVP award
Nikola Jokic was revealed Tuesday as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for 2020-21, making him by far the lowest draft pick ever to win the award
7:57PM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review
The White House dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China
1:20PM ( 34 minutes ago )
US deaths from heart disease and diabetes climbed amid COVID
The U.S. saw remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and some other common killers last year
1:19PM ( 34 minutes ago )
Slap to Macron puts focus on ultra-right groups
Bubbling beneath France’s political landscape is an assortment of ultra-right groups, an invisible subculture that shot to the nation’s attention when a young man slapped President Emmanuel Macron and blurted out a centuries-old royalist cry
1:11PM ( 42 minutes ago )
AP National News
Russia expected to outlaw opposition leader Navalny's groups
A court is expected to outlaw the organizations founded by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
11:08AM ( 2 hours ago )
Cicadas delay White House press ahead of Biden overseas trip
Reporters traveling to the United Kingdom ahead of President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip were delayed seven hours after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas
10:12AM ( 3 hours ago )
White House drops Trump orders trying to ban TikTok, WeChat
Officials say the White House has dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China
10:05AM ( 3 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Young shines for confident Hawks under playoff pressure
Trae Young continues to shine as a playoff leader for the Atlanta Hawks
5:30PM ( 1 day ago )
Home sweet home: Clippers beat Mavs 126-111 to win series
Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Marcus Morris added 23 and the Los Angeles Clippers finally won at home, finishing off the Dallas Mavericks 126-111 on Sunday in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series
8:41PM ( 2 days ago )
Harden not back for Game 2, Bucks hope their shooting is
James Harden won’t be back for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals
5:39PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - NBA
Nadal drops set, beats Schwartzman to reach French Open SF
Rafael Nadal’s French Open set streak is over but his pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title remains very much intact
1:49PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Sweat against Washington persuading players to get vaccine
Washington pass rusher Montez Sweat says he isn't a fan of the team attempting to persuade players to get vaccinated against COVID-19
1:33PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Man sentenced to death for murder of Nebraska store clerk
A man who admitting to killing and dismembering a Nebraska hardware store clerk in 2017 has been sentenced to death
1:33PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Federal appeals court blocks sweeping Missouri abortion law
A federal appeals court panel has blocked Missouri from enforcing a sweeping state abortion law that bans the procedures at or after eight weeks of pregnancy
1:26PM ( 28 minutes ago )
US drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review
The White House dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China
1:20PM ( 34 minutes ago )