Kevin Pritchard on Nate Bjorkgren’s future as Pacers coach: ‘I’m not committing either way’
There’s something to be said for Pritchard taking his time to thoroughly evaluate the situation. But he didn’t have to hold this press conference until deciding on Bjorkgren.
“I’m not committing either way” is one eyebrow-raising statement.
If Pacers players are disenchanted with Bjorkgren, they now know Pritchard isn’t completely committed to him. That will make Bjorkgren’s job even more difficult if he returns.
Which is why it seems unlikely Bjorkgren will return. Once an NBA head coach loses the clear public support of his front office, he usually gets fired soon after.
Not always, though.
At his season-ending press conference in 2017, Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, “We need a culture reset” and “The style of play is something that we need to change.” It seemed likely Toronto would fire Dwane Casey, who’d previously been on the hot seat. Yet, the Raptors kept Casey (though fired him the next year).
Bjorkgren will need a similarly surprising break to avoid the list of NBA head coaches who lasted one season or less in their first non-interim job since the NBA-ABA merger:
- John Beilein: 2020 CLE (14-40)
- Igor Kokoskov: 2019 PHO (19-63)
- Jason Kidd: 2014 BRK (44-38)
- Mike Dunlap: 2013 CHA (21-61)
- Keith Smart: 2011 GSW (36-46)
- Michael Curry: 2009 DET (39-43)
- Sam Vincent: 2008 CHA (32-50)
- Randy Ayers: 2004 PHI (21-31)
- Kevin O’Neill: 2004 TOR (33-49)
- Leonard Hamilton: 2001 WAS (19-63)
- Gar Heard: 2000 WAS (14-30)
- Mike D’Antoni: 1999 DEN (14-36)
- Bill Hanzlik: 1998 DEN (11-71)
- Johnny Davis: 1997 PHI (22-60)
- Brendan Malone: 1996 TOR (21-61)
- Quinn Buckner: 1994 DAL (13-69)
- Jerry Tarkanian: 1993 SAS (9-11)
- John Wetzel: 1988 PHO (28-54)
- Morris McHone: 1984 SAS (11-20)
- Bill Musselman: 1981 CLE (25-46)
- Stan Albeck: 1980 CLE (37-45)
- Jack McKinney: 1980 LAL (10-4)
- Bob Hopkins: 1978 SEA (5-17)
- Tates Locke: 1977 BUF (16-30)
Maybe Bjorkgren just needs more time to improve. Like rookie players, rookie coaches can grow in future seasons. Pritchard is clearly impressed with both Bjorkgren’s technical ability and willingness to address his interpersonal weaknesses.
But coaches rarely get an opportunities to work through those issues unless winning more than Bjorkgren did.