The 2019 NBA Finals is finally over. The Toronto Raptors made history when it clinched its first-ever championship, beating the defending champion, Golden State Warrior. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leads the team with support from Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Danny Green, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred Van Fleet, Norman Powel and the rest of the gritty Raptors. Much has been said about the players and their experiences, but let us take a look at the rookie coach of this team who steered them to a historic, first-ever championship title.
PASSION FOR COACHING
Nick Nurse is a native of Carell, Iowa and has played at the University of Iowa from 1985 to 1989, appearing in 111 games. He is the school’s all-time 3-point percentage leader at .468 (170 of 363). After graduating, Nurse pursued his career to coaching and became an assistant coach for Northern Iowa in the 1989–90 season before being a player-coach for the Derby Rams in the British Basketball League for the 1990–91 season.
At a young age of 23, Nurse got his first full-time head coaching job at Grand View Universit. At the time, he was the youngest college basketball head coach in the country. He coached at Grand View for two seasons before taking on an assistant coaching role at the University of South Dakota for two seasons there.
Aside from his coaching stints in the US, Nurse also spent 11 seasons coaching in Europe, mostly in the British Basketball League (BBL). During that time, he won two BBL championships as a head coach, one with the Birmingham Bullets in 1996 and one with the Manchester Giants in 2000, while also helming London Towers in the Euroleague. Nurse also won the BBL Coach of the Year Award in the 1999–2000 and 2003–04 seasons. He also coached for the Telindus Oostende of the Ethias League in 1998, as well as became an assistant coach for the Oklahoma Storm of the United States Basketball League in both 2001 and 2005.
He was also an assistant coach, under Chris Finch, for the Great Britain national team from 2009-12, including at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
NBA D-LEAGUE: PATH TO NBA
In 2007, Nurse accepted the head coaching job for the Iowa Energy, who were preparing for their first season in the NBA D-League (now called the NBA G League). The Energy won division titles under Nurse in the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons. After three seasons with the team, Nurse agreed to join the coaching staff of the Iowa State Cyclones as an associate head coach in April 2010. Shortly afterward, however, Cyclones head coach Greg McDermott left Iowa State to become the head coach at Creighton, and Nurse returned to his former position as head coach with the Energy. In the 2010–11 NBA D-League season, Nurse received the Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year Award after helping Iowa achieve the best record in the league (37–13). Nurse and the Energy then went on to win the 2011 D-League championship. Before the 2011–12 season, Nurse left the Energy for the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In the 2012–13 season, the Vipers finished with a record of 35–15 and won the D-League finals in a two-game sweep of the Santa Cruz Warriors. During his six seasons coaching in the D-League, Nurse had 23 players on his rosters called up to the NBA.
In July 2013, Nurse departed the Vipers for an assistant job on the coaching staff of the Toronto Raptors under Dwane Casey. He was in charge of the offense during his time under Casey, and in the 2017–18 season he was credited for changes to the Raptors offensive game plan which included increases in passing and 3-point attempts. The improved offense helped the Raptors win a franchise-record 59 games, but the team was swept in the second round of the 2018 NBA playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Casey was fired shortly thereafter.
On June 14, 2018, the Raptors promoted Nurse to the position of head coach to succeed Casey. On May 25, 2019, Nurse coached the Raptors to the 2019 NBA Finals, the first for the franchise, after taking the Eastern Conference Championship by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. On June 13, Nurse became the first head coach to win both the NBA and NBA G League (formerly D-League) titles, when the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, 114–110.
It was not entirely a bed of roses for Coach Nick Nurse. In fact, no one saw Raptors coming and stopping the defending champions Golden State Warriors from doing a three-peat. With Leonard leading the team, Nurse masterfully placed in the puzzle where his roster understood their roles enough to make them a championship contender.
Nurse indeed had big shoes to fill left by 2017-2018 Coach of the Year from former coach Diane Casey. But after the team’s historic2019 championship. Nurse will be needing no introduction as Canada and NBA fans around the world will know him as the rookie coach who gave Toronto Raptors their first ever Larry O’Brien trophy.
Photo Source: 1. https://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/raptors-coach-nick-nurses-94-year-old-mother-dies/ 2. https://www.argusleader.com/story/sports/2019/05/31/toronto-raptors-coach-nick-nurse-nba-finals-south-dakota-coyotes-golden-state-warriors/1258626001/ 3. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2781045-a-smart-son-of-a-bitch-can-nick-nurse-out-think-raptors-biggest-rivals 4. https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/sport/other-sport/nick-nurses-journey-derby-nba-2978794 5. https://sports.inquirer.net/352380/analysis-raptors-coach-nick-nurse-making-the-right-moves 6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/06/11/raptors-coach-nick-nurse-ripped-timeout-that-helped-warriors/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5b86feaf1961 7.https://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/nick-nurse-toronto-raptors-coach-path/