Nurse wants Raptors to be open-minded
TORONTO Masai Ujiri was playing for the Derby Storm of the British Basketball League against a tough Birmingham Bullets team coached by a 20-something Nick Nurse.
It was 1995 and the first meeting between the now-toronto Raptors president and his new head coach and Ujiri said he was impressed by Nurse even then.
“His teams were tough,” Ujiri said Thursday as the Raptors introduced Nurse as the team’s ninth head coach. “There was always something about the Birmingham team that was different from the whole league. People talked about them that way.”
The 50-year-old Nurse replaces his former boss Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs.
The Raptors rode a revamped offensive style to a franchise-best 59 wins and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But they ran into a roadblock in Cleveland’s Lebron James for a third consecutive season. Nurse will be tasked will taking them one step further.
Much has been made of Nurse’s coaching creativity and an ability to think outside the box. Nurse said he has spoken to most of the team already about being openminded heading into next season.
Nurse believes Cleveland was beatable in the post-season and had Game 1 gone their way, the conference semifinal might have been a different series.
But while the Raptors’ offence held up in the playoffs, Nurse said the team’s defence wasn’t good enough.
“It all comes down to putting the players in the best position they can be (to be) successful and that includes defence.”
Nurse posted a 183-117 (.610) regular-season record in the Gleague, where he won coach of the year with the Iowa Energy and two league titles, one with the Energy and another with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.