Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
Leave it to Woj to break open the monotony of my day! To boot -
The Toronto Raptors are hiring assistant Nick Nurse as the franchise's new head coach, league sources tell ESPN. Sides are working through details of contract now.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 12, 2018
I just want to say from the get-go, I fully expect people to not be thrilled over the notion that it's not exactly a "new" coach that will man the ship for the Raptors. Nurse was an internal candidate and his lack of recognition among the casual NBA audience makes it seem like an unsexy pick. However, if you dig a little deeper into his experience and how well regarded he is in the league as not just an assistant coach, but his potential to be a great head coach, your lack of excitement may be altered.
I'll admit, I was hoping that Jerry Stackhouse would end up being the new head coach for the team. From my limited vantage point (and I use the term "limited" generously, here), I was under the impression that a guy like Stackhouse had not only the experience as an NBA player, but already had a rapport with the team as a former assistant coach, as well as a relationship with a lot of the members of the Bench Mob as the head coach for Raptors 905. Yet, as soon as Stackhouse accepted an assistant coach role with the Memphis Grizzlies, I was pretty certain that it was basically Nick Nurse's job. To boot -
However, when I look to see what qualifications Nick Nurse brings, it's not too far off from what I assumed Stackhouse would; at least on paper. Nurse's coaching history is robust, as he's had numerous stints as a head coach in the British Basketball League, winning two championships and Coach of the Year awards. Moreover, he's won two G-League (then D-League) titles, as well as being named Coach of the Year. Further, since joining the Raptors as an assistant coach in 2013, the team has never been outside of the Top 10 in offense, while peaking at #3 in the league twice.
Nurse has been largely credited as being the one responsible for changing up the offense that we saw the team display throughout the season. As mentioned earlier, he's very well-respected among the circle of NBA coaches, as indicated in a recent (anonymous) Yahoo! Sports article in which Nurse had the most votes out of any potential coaching candidate to be a valuable asset for any NBA team. In other words, both Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster did their homework when it came to what they already had. Had they gone with a different candidate, the likelihood that Nurse would have pursued other options outside of the organization is quite high. Simply put, the Raptors didn't want to risk losing him and decided to give him the reigns left by Dwane Casey.
The remaining question is - what does this mean for the team in terms of roster construction moving forward? I'm personally unsure and would like to believe that Ujiri, Webster, and Nurse are all on the same page in terms of which players they'd like to keep and which they'd like to move, if possible. It seems obvious to me that a lot of these things, if not all of them, were discussed during the interview process, which leads me to believe that the trio feels the same way as to what would be the best course of action for the team moving forward. Further, it's fair to wonder if the team will make a move for a defensive minded assistant coach to help Nurse bridge the gap in terms of scheming.
How they move forward will be something to monitor, but as the last team to sign a head coach, the Raptors can certainly start making these decisions and get the ball rolling. Again, I get that it's not the sexiest of signings, but there's a lot to like when it comes to the move. I'm very happy with the decision and, if there's one thing I've learned when it comes to the Raptors, it's simple:
In Masai I trust.
(Note: I discussed this on Part 1 of Episode 66 of the South of the 6ix Podcast with Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views recorded Tuesday evening, 6/12. You can listen to the show below for a more in-depth take.)
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