Thanks to the reporting of the Toronto Sun’s Ryan Wolstat — known as the Woz — we have some news regarding the Raptors next coaching hire.
According to the Woz, former Phoenix Suns assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren will be announced soon as the latest member of Toronto’s staff. He’ll join up to work under head coach Nick Nurse, along with assistant Adrian Griffin.
Messed up, here's proper spelling: Raptors notes from here in Vegas: As we expected, Nate Bjorkgren is here and will officially be named a member of Nick Nurse's coaching staff at some point. Nurse invited his friend Fabulous from great @ScottCacciola piece to watch SL.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) July 9, 2018
Here’s the NBA-related history for Bjorkgren (great name, by the way): He got his pro start with the Iowa Energy (now Wolves) of the then-D-League in 2007. Nate was an assistant coach in Iowa under, wait for it, Nick Nurse! While there the team would go on to win a D-League title in 2011.
Bjorkgren then jumped to the Dakota Wizards, later renamed the Santa Cruz Warriors, from 2011 to 2013, this time as the team’s head coach. Upon rejoining the Energy for a year, Nate continued his run as a head coach, rocking out as the bench boss for the Bakersfield Jam (who are now the North Arizona Suns), and then, finally, joined the NBA proper as an assistant for the big time Suns. If there’s a general trend to Bjorkgren’s work, it’s that his teams have improved quickly while he’s been the coach. This could be because of roster turnover (it’s the G League!), but it also suggests a solid coaching presence.
Bjorkgren’s been through some rough recent years in Phoenix. He joined the squad as it was tipping into disaster in 2015, and managed to hang on through part of the Suns’ rebuild — he even coached their Summer League team in 2015 and 2016. He was ultimately let go from Phoenix in 2017 after an 0-3 start, which was presumably all his fault.
As Woz implies in his tweet, Bjorkgren’s hiring was not seen as a surprise. He was working within Toronto’s advanced scouting department, and has the obvious pre-existing connection to Nurse. With the news, and the previous Griffin hire, the Raptors are working with one remaining open assistant coaching position. We’ll see what shakes out next.