Trail Blazers add former Pacers head coach, NBA coaching veteran to staff

Author: Jared Cowley (KGW)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) – The Portland Trail Blazers are adding two assistant coaches, former Indiana Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren and 10-year NBA coaching veteran Chris Fleming, to head coach Chauncey Billups’ coaching staff, the team reported Monday morning.

The two new hires will fill two of three vacant positions on Billups’ staff. Portland didn’t renew the contracts of lead assistant Scott Brooks and assistant Rodney Billups, the younger brother of Chauncey Billups, this offseason, and assistant Steve Hetzel left the Blazers to join the Brooklyn Nets’ coaching staff in April.

According to a report from Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report, the other vacant position will be filled before training camp, and the other assistants on Billups’ staff — Roy Rogers, Jonah Herscu and Mark Tyndale — will remain in place. Billups is in the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Blazers.

Bjorkgren, 49, has been with the Blazers for the past year as a special assistant to the coaching staff, the team said in Monday’s news release. After spending two seasons as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns from 2015 to 2017, he served as an assistant under head coach Nick Nurse in Toronto from 2018 to 2020 and helped lead the Raptors to an NBA championship in 2019. He was hired as head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 2020, but was fired in 2021 after just one season.

According to The Sporting News, Bjorkgren was fired due to the team’s performance — the Pacers won just 34 games, 11 fewer than the previous season, and lost in the play-in tournament — but also because of a “failure to connect with his players and staff.” The report indicated that Bjorkgren’s “relationships with those in the organization became strained and that led to his departure.”

NBA reporter Jake Fischer, writing for Bleacher Report in 2021, provided more detail: “Bjorkgren’s communication style has been categorized as aggressive and abrasive with players and members of the Pacers staff, from his front-of-the-bench assistants down to trainers and equipment personnel.” The coach himself admitted to growing pains in that area as a coach, saying after a late-season game that he needed to improve his communication skills, “the management of personalities is bigger than the X’s and O’s part. That’s where I got to keep growing and got to keep learning and got to get better,” he said.

After he was fired, Bjorkgren returned to Toronto and served as an assistant for two seasons until he was let go when Nurse was fired following the 2022-23 season. He then spent last season as a special assistant in Portland. Highkin reported that “despite the personality concerns in his lone season as a head coach, [Bjorkgren’s] tactical basketball acumen is well-regarded around the NBA.”

Fleming, 54, was an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls for the past five seasons, from 2019 to 2024, before he was let go at the conclusion of the 2023-24 season. He also was an assistant with the Brooklyn Nets for three seasons from 2016 to 2019 and for two seasons before that in Denver with the Nuggets.

He also has international coaching experience. Prior to the NBA, Fleming was a head coach for two different teams in Germany for a combined 14 seasons, the Blazers said, winning four Germany Cup championships and three German Supercup championships. He also coached the German national team for three seasons.

Read the original article here.

© 2024 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

Skip to content