Nurse’s first boss says the Rap­tors made the right move

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - LORI EWING

TORONTO — El­don Miller said just five peo­ple showed up for the first play­ers meet­ing he held as head bas­ket­ball coach at North­ern Iowa. One of them was Nick Nurse.

A col­lege coach lifer at “al­most 80,” Miller was one of the many peo­ple from Nurse’s past who lined up to con­grat­u­late the 50year-old Tues­day when news broke that he’ll be the Toronto Rap­tors’ next head coach.

“His quote to me was, ’Some­times it’s a crazy busi­ness,’” Miller said. “I texted him af­ter he told me that and said, ‘Maybe it’s not so crazy. Some­body smart enough to hire you has an idea what’s go­ing on.’ ”

Nurse was al­ready at North­ern Iowa when Miller took over the team. Miller then hired him as a stu­dent as­sis­tant in what would be the first of more than a dozen coach­ing out­posts on his road to Toronto.

Miller said in his 50 years in the game he hasn’t seen many bas­ket­ball minds like Nurse’s.

“He likes ag­gres­sive of­fence. That’s kind of the way he played. He never saw an open three he didn’t like. Of course, he could make them,” said the coach through a grav­elly voice. “You have very few play­ers who not only know where to go on the floor in a play, know the op­tions in a play, but they un­der­stand why, they un­der­stand the stress it puts on the de­fence. Nick was way ahead of the game.

“There’s not very many peo­ple who can try to fig­ure out ways to im­prove sit­u­a­tions based on who the play­ers are. That’s what a great point guard does, and Nick could men­tally, and also phys­i­cally be­cause he made very few er­rors. De­spite the fact that he had some lim­i­ta­tions ath­let­i­cally, he had a huge as­sist-to-turnover ra­tio, and he just un­der­stood.”

Miller noted that one of North­ern Iowa’s high­lights was beat­ing an NCAA No. 3 seed when Nurse was on his staff.

Miller was sad to see Nurse go when he left to be a player/coach with the Derby Storm of the Bri­tish Bas­ket­ball League, but “Nick is one of the guys you want to see move on.”

Miller is now a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant with his son Ben’s Div. 2 pro­gram at Univer­sity North Carolina Pem­broke. He and Nurse have kept in touch in the al­most 30 years since he left Iowa. They talk reg­u­larly, and of­ten the subject of con­ver­sa­tion is the evolv­ing Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion game. Miller laughed when he said Nurse is al­ways way ahead of him. “He knows the NBA, he knows the phi­los­o­phy, he knows the changes in the game. The game is to­tally dif­fer­ent now. Your play­ers all have to be ver­sa­tile play­ers, not only of­fen­sively but also de­fen­sively, they have to be able to guard mul­ti­ple po­si­tions. He’s way ahead of that curve. When we talk, he’s al­ways out there some­where I haven’t even thought about in bas­ket­ball.”

The Rap­tors are ex­pected Thurs­day to in­tro­duce Nurse as their ninth head coach. He re­places his for­mer boss Dwane Casey, who was fired af­ter Toronto was swept by Cleve­land in the sec­ond round of the play­offs.

That hu­mil­i­at­ing exit came af­ter a fran­chise best 59 wins in the reg­u­lar sea­son and a firstever No. 1 seed. The Rap­tors were lauded for their offensive makeover in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and Nurse has been praised as one of the ar­chi­tects be­hind it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.