Bakersfield Jam Coach Nate Bjorkgren Discusses Chance to Build A Relationship With Suns

New Bakersfield Jam head coach Nate Bjorkgren spoke with RidiculousUpside.com about his new role and the Suns' newly formed one-to-one affiliation with Bakersfield.

Last week, the NBA D-League announced a new single hybrid affiliation to be formed between the Phoenix Suns and Bakersfield Jam. Under such an arrangement, the local ownership group will continue to embrace the community while controlling the business side of things, while the Suns will put their own stamp on the team's basketball operations.

As such, a new staff has been put in place to help carry out Phoenix's overall vision. But as fate would have it, the Suns opted not to re-assign one of its own coaches to Bakersfield. Instead, they hired from the outside, bringing the utmost qualified of a candidate in under the Suns' overall umbrella.

Such a coach looked at as the man with the plan was none other than D-League coaching veteran Nate Bjorkgren. In addition to winning an NBADL championship as an assistant under Nick Nurse with the Iowa Energy, Coach Bjorkgren led the Warriors to the D-League Finals in 2013. What's more, his most recent efforts after returning to Iowa as a head coach last season earned him some worthwhile "Coach of the Year" award consideration.

Such credentials quality Coach to the fullest, and now, he'll enjoy open communication with an NBA staff.

"It's really important for the Phoenix Suns. They're in Bakersfield now for a reason. The Suns are planning on using the D-League in a number of ways," Bjorkgren told RidiculousUpside.com. "Personally, I actually spent five years of my life in Phoenix previously, and have always thought highly of the organization. This should be a lot of fun."

He added, "My family was back in Iowa with me last year, but they'll be coming out to Bakersfield with me. The whole communication aspect of things means a lot. Bubba Burrage is now the General Manager of the Jam, and he's been in basketball operations for over twenty years. It'll be great to communicate with him on a daily basis."

As mentioned, Coach Bjorkgren has been around the D-League block long enough, not only to recongize the value in it himself, but also to witness the strides the league has made over the years as a whole.

"There has been huge progression. The NBA continues to buy into the D-League more and more with each year. It's just become that much more important [to the NBA] with the number of call-ups that are taking place," he said. "The league is expanding in a number of different ways. I do believe we'll come to a time where every NBA team has their own D-League team. There are plenty of advantages. It's great for a coach, because it's challenging to go through all of the games with so many roster changes. It's a fun league to be a part of."

With a different opportunity at his fingertips, the veteran coach says he is looking forward to what's ahead, including the continued opportunity to learn. "There's a lot of value in running your own D-League team," Bjorgren asserted. "I'm going to be able to learn from Coach Jeff Hornacek the type of offense and defense he wants to run, that way, when the Suns send a player to Bakersfield, it'll be an easy transition. I did similar things when coaching in Dakota and Santa Cruz with Golden State. I've enjoyed having a number of assignment players. It's a chance for those guys to get better."

What's more, the first year Bakersfield coach is going to be a key player in ensuring the D-League transition is a seamless one for Suns' assignees. Asked to provide a little window into his successful strategy for doing so in the past. he said, "The biggest thing is simply working hard and doing your best for the players. If they feel that, they'll come right back and give you everything they've got. With so many changes taking place, communication in the D-League is huge. Communication between the players and a head coach is important, simply so they know their time will come."

And though the Suns (in addition to a multitude of other NBA teams) have previously been affiliated with the Jam in the past, this one-to-one partnership will be the first of its kind in town.

Conveying the one message Coach would want to send to Suns fans right off the bat, Bjorkgren added, "Fans should understand that when a player is assigned to the Bakersfield Jam, we're going to work really hard for them. We want them to get better."

He went on to conclude, "Whether they're with us for one game or twenty, a player will have seen some growth in their game by the time they return to Phoenix. We want to play exciting basketball for the fans in Bakersfield, and have the Suns feel the value in the youth of the D-League."
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