One of the first things Earl Watson did after he was named the 17th head coach in Phoenix Suns history was hire a staff. He brought on board three former head coaches, two with NBA experience, plus a wealth of knowledge, both on and off the court, to complete the player development side of the organization.
“Each coach we have here has a purpose,” Watson said. “The impact they had on my life was monumental. Without them I would not even be standing here today let alone be the person I am today. So, for me, it’s deeper than just a resume or a good coach, it’s great teachers who reach beyond the game of basketball.”
Get to know: SUNS ASSISTANT NATE BJORKGREN
“Super positive. Everything has a solution. He’s great at just organizing and getting things going. He’s done a great job with our team as far as 2-2-1 pressing, zone defense and the development of the guards,” Watson said.
Bjorkgren remains with the Suns after spending last season as an assistant coach/player development coordinator with the team. Twice, he’s served as head coach of Suns teams at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, going 9-4 with a runner-up finish in 2015 and a semifinal appearance in 2016.
Bjorkgren joined the Suns after four seasons as a head coach in the NBA Development League, leading the Bakersfield Jam, then the Suns’ affiliate, to a 34-16 record and Western Conference Semifinals appearance in 2014-15.
Overall, Bjorkgren is 126-74 as a head coach in the D-League.
What interested you about joining the Suns?
“Well, the first thing is I lived here in Phoenix from 2001 to 2006 (coached at Cactus Shadows High School, leading the Falcons to the Class 4A state tournament in each of his three seasons with the school) and I really loved my time here 10 years ago, so I’ve always loved the city and the fans and then just Phoenix Suns basketball. I’m really looking forward to this year because of the players. I love our guys. I mean, I love them. They’re working hard. They’ve had a great offseason from when our season ended up to Summer League and then Summer League itself and then what we’ve been doing from the end of Summer League until now leading up to training camp. As you can see, the guys in the gym, they’re working hard and they’re fun to be around.”
What is your strength; where are you going to best help the team?
“A little bit of everything. Coach Watson does a good job of having his assistants take responsibility. He’s given me a ton of responsibility, whether being the head coach of the Summer League team, putting guys through individual workouts, group workouts. He’s really good at letting his assistant coaches feel a little bit of everything because he wants his assistant coaches to continue to grow. He wants them to be head coaches someday in the NBA if that’s what they want to be, so he’s done a great job with that. It’s nice to touch some things on offense, touch things on defense, player development-wise. It’s good to have a well-rounded area of things to work with.”
Away from the basketball court, what are your other interests?
“I spend a lot of time with my kids. My daughter is six, my son is four. Got a great backyard for whiffle ball. We play that a lot. We play basketball a lot, both of my kids. My son just made his first shot on a 10-foot hoop, so that was a big day. So, I spend a lot of time with my family outside and enjoying the Phoenix weather.”
This is part three of a four-part series. Friday, we introduce Marlon Garnett.