Toronto fires Nick Nurse, who led Raptors to 2019 NBA title



Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse reacts to a call during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, April 5, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse gestures during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman) (AP)

TORONTO (AP) — Nick Nurse was fired Friday as coach of the Toronto Raptors, four years after he led the franchise to its first and only NBA championship.

Nurse went 227-163 in his five seasons with the Raptors, with his .582 winning percentage ranking as the best of any coach in franchise history.

The last three seasons have not gone as the team planned. The Raptors missed the playoffs in 2021, a year where they were forced to call Tampa, Florida, home because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge of getting teams in and out of Canada for games. They lost in the first round in 2022, and lost an elimination game at home in the play-in tournament this season.

“The decision to make a change like this is never arrived at easily or taken lightly, especially when it comes to a person who has been an integral part of this franchise’s most historic accomplishments, and who has been a steady leader through some of our team’s most challenging times,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said.

Ujiri called the move “an opportunity for us to reset, to refocus, to put into place the personnel and the players who will help us reach our goal of winning our next championship.”

Nurse was with the Raptors for 10 seasons, the first five as an assistant. He suggested in March that he might take some time after the season to decide his own future.

“Just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything,” Nurse said. “It’s been 10 years for me, which is a pretty good run. Over those 10 years, we’ve got to be up there in number of wins with anybody in the league.”

He was right: Only Golden State (.661) has a better winning percentage than Toronto (.613) in that timespan.

Former Boston coach Ime Udoka is among the coaches whom Toronto is expected to consider for Nurse’s replacement. Udoka, who has been close with Ujiri for years, led the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season, then was suspended for this season after the disclosure of an inappropriate relationship with a female Celtics employee.

It’s also likely that Nurse will be considered for current openings in the NBA, given that he’s won everywhere he has been.

Nurse played at Northern Iowa, then started his coaching career there as an assistant and wound up becoming a head coach at Grand View University when he was just 23. He coached in Belgium and Britain — winning a pair of British Basketball League titles as a coach in Birmingham in 1996 and London in 2000 — then got a couple titles in what is now called the G League.

The second G League crown got him noticed. He guided Rio Grande Valley to a title in 2013 and that’s when the Raptors called and wanted to talk to him about offense. They ended up hiring him as an assistant, and he was with Toronto ever since.


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