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Indiana Pacers fire head coach Nate Bjorkgren after one season

Indiana Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren (R), shown March 12, 2021, had one guaranteed year remaining on his original three-year contract. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Indiana Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren (R), shown March 12, 2021, had one guaranteed year remaining on his original three-year contract. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) -- The Indiana Pacers have fired head coach Nate Bjorkgren after just one season, the team announced Wednesday.

League sources told ESPN that Pacers officials met with Bjorkgren on Tuesday to discuss his future with the organization. The team ultimately decided that the relationship between him and the locker room couldn't be repaired.

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Bjorkgren had one guaranteed year remaining on his original three-year contract.

"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," Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

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"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. 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."

Bjorkgren, who previously served as an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns, was hired before the 2020-21 season to replace Nate McMillan. Bjorkgren guided the Pacers to a 34-38 record this season.

The Pacers' five-year playoff streak ended this season when they lost to the Washington Wizards in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

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Indiana held interviews with about 20 candidates a year ago for its head-coaching job and could revisit some of those candidates. According to ESPN, the Pacers are expected to focus on candidates with previous head-coaching experience in this year's search process.

"There are certain [traits] that are non-negotiables for me going forward," Pritchard told reporters Wednesday. "I hope I've learned from this in terms of selecting the right coach."

There are now four head-coaching vacancies around the NBA: the Boston Celtics; Orlando Magic; Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana. McMillan currently is the interim head coach for the Atlanta Hawks, but he is expected to be offered a new contract after the postseason.

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