Nate Bjorkgren

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Nate Bjorkgren
Toronto Raptors
PositionAssistant coach
LeagueNBA
Personal information
Born (1975-06-20) June 20, 1975 (age 44)
Storm Lake, Iowa
NationalityAmerican
Career information
High schoolStorm Lake
(Storm Lake, Iowa)
College
Coaching career2004–present
Career history
As coach:
2004–2007Cactus Shadows HS
2007–2011Iowa Energy (assistant)
2011–2013Dakota Wizards / Santa Cruz Warriors
2013–2014Iowa Energy
2014–2015Bakersfield Jam
20152017Phoenix Suns (assistant)
2018–presentToronto Raptors (assistant)
Career highlights and awards

Nate Bjorkgren (BEE-ork-Gren; born June 20, 1975) is an American basketball coach who is an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for University of South Dakota and Buena Vista University. He was previously an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns from 2015-2017.

Early life and college career[edit]

Bjorkgren was born in Storm Lake, Iowa on June 20th, 1975. When Bjorkgren started playing basketball in college, he first began by playing for the University of South Dakota in 1994. After a couple of seasons playing there, he decided to transfer to Buena Vista University in his hometown. During his time there, Bjorkgren helped Buena Vista out in gaining the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship in their 1996–97 season.[1] At the time, it was the university's first conference championship earned since 1976. He eventually graduated in 1998 with a degree in Exercise Science.[2]

High school and D-League coaching career[edit]

Four years after graduating from Buena Vista University, Bjorkgren moved out to Phoenix, Arizona.[3] It was there that he began his tenure on coaching basketball. From 2004 to 2007, Bjorkgren began his coaching career with Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek, Arizona. During each of his three seasons with Cactus Shadows, he lead the Falcons to the Cactus 4A State Tournament. In addition, he also was named both the Regional Coach of the Year during the 2004–05 and 2005–06 seasons and the Arizona State High School Coach of the Year for the 2005–06 season.

After his third and final season at Cactus Shadows High School, Bjorkgren was called up in 2007 for an assistant coach role under Nick Nurse's coaching staff for a new expansion D-League team with his home state's Iowa Energy.[4] During his last season as assistant coach for Iowa, Bjorkgren made his coaching debut in the D-League under an overtime victory for the Energy.[5] Under his last season as assistant coach for the Energy, the team won their first ever D-League championship with his assistance at hand. That led to the Dakota Wizards to call upon Bjorkgren's service as the team's new head coach. During the Wizards' last season under the Dakota name, he coached the team to an improved 29–21 record after having a 19–31 record the previous season before losing in the first round to the Bakersfield Jam. After that, the Dakota Wizards changed their name to the Santa Cruz Warriors due to the Golden State Warriors gaining complete control over the franchise by that point. Under their first season with the Warriors name, Bjorkgren improved the team even further, managing the team to the point where they made it to their first D-League Finals as the Warriors, before eventually losing to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 2-0. Before trying again with the Warriors, Bjorkgren signed a new deal to return to the Iowa Energy as their head coach. In his only season there, Bjorkgren improved the Energy from a 14–36 record to a more improved 31–19 record, which helped him gain recognition by scouts as a potential NBA head coach someday. After losing out to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers once again, Bjorkgren signed up to a new deal to coach the Bakersfield Jam. During his only season coaching the Jam, he also improved the team, managing to go from an average 24–26 record to a more improved 34–16 record. While he helped his players earn multiple honors that season, the Jam ultimately lost in the playoffs 2-1 to the Austin Spurs in the first round.

Professional coaching career[edit]

On July 30, 2015, Bjorkgren got promoted to the NBA by being named both an assistant coach and the leading player development coordinator for the Phoenix Suns under head coach Jeff Hornacek.[6] Before being officially hired, though, he took on the head coach role for the Phoenix Suns' Summer League team in the 2015 NBA Summer League, where he led the team to a 5-2 record, making it to the Las Vegas Finals before losing to the San Antonio Spurs. Under his debut season, he went from being both an assistant head coach and player development coordinator to a full-time assistant coach after both assistant coaches Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi were fired by December 28, 2015. With the coaching staff undermanned and the Suns performing poorly due, at least in part, to injuries involving some of their key players, it ultimately led to Jeff Hornacek being fired by February 1, 2016, after finishing the month of January with a 2-12 record. Bjorkgren was immediately considered a prime candidate to take over the vacant coaching spot before the position was ultimately given to Earl Watson.[7] However, despite performing under one of the worst seasons in franchise history, Bjorkgren continued to remain as a part of Earl Watson's newest coaching staff, being one of only two members of Earl Watson's original staff to remain there after the 2015-16 NBA season ended. Bjorkgren also took on the role of the Suns' Summer League coach once again for the 2016 NBA Summer League, this time recording a 4–2 record, with the team missing out on their third Las Vegas Finals showing after losing to the #24 seeded Minnesota Timberwolves.

After his second season with the Suns saw some minor improvements, Bjorkgren was removed from the team alongside player development coaches Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser on October 22, 2017 after some poor performances led to a 0–3 start for the team's 50th anniversary season. He then became a part of the Toronto Raptors under their advanced scouting department for the rest of the season onward. In July 2018, Bjorkgren was announced as one of the newest assistant coaches for the Toronto Raptors under new head coach Nick Nurse, whom he had previously worked with under the Iowa Energy from 2007 until 2011. During his first season with Toronto, Bjorkgren reached the 2019 NBA Finals, where the Raptors bested the Golden State Warriors 4–2 in a best of seven series. He became the first assistant coach to win both an NBA Finals and NBA D-League (now NBA G League) Championship throughout a coaching career, winning both under Nick Nurse as head coach.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Suns Announce Complete 2016-17 Coaching Staff - Phoenix Suns".
  2. ^ "WARRIORS: Nate Bjorkgren Named Head Coach Of The Dakota Wizards". www.nba.com.
  3. ^ "Getting to know Phoenix Suns assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren". 29 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2013-08-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ mbrauer@siouxcityjournal.com, MICHAEL BRAUER. "Storm Lake native ready to coach in NBA's D-League".
  6. ^ "Suns announce additions to coaching staff". Fox Sports. 30 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Suns fire coach Jeff Hornacek".

External links[edit]