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Former D-League Coach Nate Bjorkgren Takes Big Leap For NBA Summer League

Recently promoted to the Phoenix Suns from the affiliated Bakersfield Jam, Nate Bjorkgren will serve as head coach for the NBA club's Summer League team in Las Vegas.

Each and every offseason, the D-League's "Coach of the Year" award winner is rewarded with a very unique opportunity. By coaching the D-League Select Team in Las Vegas during NBA Summer League, they have a chance, not only to size up against current NBA assistants (and sometimes head coaches, too), but also to compete and potentially prove their own worth in the process.

This, of course, is what Summer League is all about: development, growth, and opportunity. As fate would have it, 2014-15 COY winner Scott Morrison isn't the only one of the D-League's favorite sons to be rewarded.

Earlier this week, upon announcing their Summer League roster, the Phoenix Suns also revealed that their head coach would be minor league coaching veteran Nate Bjorkgren. After coaching the affiliated Bakersfield Jam last season, Coach Bjorkgren recently received a call-up of his own, getting promoted to assistant coach / director of player development in Phoenix. He was also an assistant on last summer's Vegas team for the Suns.

This is a well deserved honor for one of the best coaches the D-League has seen in recent years as he embarks on the next step of his career. Coach Bjorkgren's NBADL resume includes a division title with the Iowa Energy and an appearance to The Finals with the Santa Cruz Warriors as head coach.

It's safe to say that all sorts of coaches in the NBA, regardless of their current rank, have had an opportunity at one time or another to lead their own group. Still, it surely helps that Bjorkgren is coming off a successful playoff run in Bakersfield. His team also won the first ever NBA D-League Showcase Cup back in January.

As far as Coach Bjorkgren is concerned, he's a competitive individual who players love playing for. He keeps them motivated, is compassionate when need be, and quite a teacher of the game.

What's more, he's even already developed a rapport by having coached the likes of Archie Goodwin. T.J. Warren, and Jerel McNeal on the Jam.

Kudos to the Suns for providing Coach Bjorkgren with this opportunity. Though he's certainly done enough to warrant it, it obviously takes a quality organization to recognize his great work and effort to this point. Giving a coach a chance like this, fresh off a D-League tenure, makes a statement. They value the employees the D-League allows them to nurture and work with enough to trust and quickly integrate them into what they're doing on the big league level.

Plenty of NBA teams welcome D-League head coaches onto their respective Summer League team staffs as assistants, but in the interest of keeping things all in the family and rewarding your own talent, the Suns' recent example (both to hire Bjorkgren, and then to have him lead the summer squad) is one many NBA organizations should follow.

It'll be interesting to see how his team does, but Coach Bjorkgren should feel right at home in his wheelhouse.