Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
Yesterday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors promoted former assistant coach, Nick Nurse, to the head coaching role, taking the spot of former head coach Dwane Casey who was fired just over a month ago. Nurse’s promotion comes just a few days after Jerry Stackhouse took a position outside of the Raptors' organization. Stackhouse was one of the top candidates for the head coaching position and now former head coach of the Raptors 905 G-League team was brought on to the Memphis Grizzlies organization as an assistant.
After that news broke, many started to believe a head coach was going to named sooner than later, and that it was going to be Nick Nurse's job. But the Raptors did well trying to find another head coach, outside of giving it to an assistant who’s been with the team for five long but great years. There were also rumbles that the Raptors interviewed Ettore Messina, a professional Italian coach who is currently an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and has also won 4 EuroLeague championships as a head coach. He was listed as one of the best European coaches of all time, being named one of the top 50 greatest EuroLeague contributors in 2008. Further, Messina was named the best Italian head coach in 1998, 2001, and 2005 and was also named Euro Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2008. Not many people knew who he was, but that’s not a bad resume if you ask me.
The Raptors also reportedly interviewed Lithuanian head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius. Although his resume isn’t great as a head coach, the 42-year old has a stacked resume as a former great player in the LKL, (Lithuanian Basketball League), winning various medals and was awarded MVP honors in 2005.
Some may not like the promotion of Nick Nurse (including myself), but it goes much deeper than bringing a new style to the team. Nurse has a great relationship with Raptors' General Manager Bobby Webster and President Masai Ujiri, as well as the players on the team. He also has head coaching experience coaching in the British Basketball League, winning the Coach of the Year award twice - once in 2000, and 2004. After a long 12 years of coaching in the BBL, Nurse then took on a head coaching position in the D-League in 2007. After joining the Energy for three years, winning their respective division in 2009 and 2010, Nurse then went on to join the coaching staff of the Iowa State Cyclones as an assistant. After his ending years in the D-League, Nurse received a Coach of the Year award in the 2011-12 season. He then spent one last season in the D-League before finally making his arrival in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors.
Nurse has been on the come-up for years, and now he can finally showcase what he’s got for this Raptors team. He knows what the roster is capable of, with arguably the best lineup in franchise history coming off the best regular season performance as well. It’ll be interesting if Nurse brings a new style to this Raptors team. Yet, the conversation of roster construction will linger during the off-season. Given Nurse's promotion, the front office has an idea as to whether they want to keep the team they have now, or trade a few pieces come the 2018-19 season. In such a tight market today in the NBA, I don’t see a huge trade happening for the Raptors this off-season or anytime soon. The Bench Mob’s potential is too high, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are more than likely “untouchables,” and OG Anunoby still has great potential as well. I left out Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell as it's likely that no one will take on their massive contracts.
Nonetheless, I and many other Raptors' faithfuls are very curious as to what Nick Nurse will provide this dedicated fan base with. After being so used to Toronto slowing down the pace of the game via ISO ball under Dwane Casey, will Nurse continue this trend? Is this enough to get us over LeBron James and the Cavs (That is, if James stays in Cleveland or the Eastern Conference for that matter)?
Many are also forgetting that this promotion from assistant to head coach means there is a vacant assistant coaching position up for grabs. No news has broken as to who may come in for Nurse and no speculation is needed at this time. The Raptors have plenty of time to make that decision before the season gets back and underway in October.
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