TORONTO — Four years after helping deliver the first championship in franchise history, Nick Nurse is paying the price for a rocky season for the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors announced Friday they had fired the head coach after five seasons.
Toronto failed to make the playoffs this season after finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 41-41 record and losing to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA play-in tournament.
“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,” team president Masai Ujiri said in a release.
“This is 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.”
According to reports, former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is a replacement Toronto could consider. Udoka was suspended this season for an inappropriate relationship with a Celtics team staffer. Udoke helped Boston reach the NBA Finals last season.
Amid the Raptors’ shaky play this season, Nurse, whose contract was set to expire after next season, was the subject of several media reports speculating about his future. Some reports suggested that a rift had formed between him and Ujiri.
Nurse addressed his own future in March, saying he would take time to consider his options in the off-season.
“I think I’m concentrated on this job, for sure, and this game,” Nurse said Friday. “But I think that 10 years is a good time to sit back and reflect a little bit, right? I think we’re going to do that all when the season ends.”
Nurse joined the Raptors organization in 2013 as an assistant coach before being named the ninth head coach in team history in June 2018.
He guided the Raptors to their first NBA title the following year. Toronto defeated the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks before topping the Golden State Warriors in the final.
Nurse, 55, was named the league’s coach of the year after Toronto posted a 53-19 mark in the 2019-20 season.
The team was 48-34 in the 2021-22 season and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers.
In his five seasons as head coach, Nurse had the best winning percentage in team history with a 227-163 record.
Media reports suggest Nurse will be in the running to fill other NBA head coaching vacancies.
A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Nurse came to the NBA after several successful years in the NBA G League. He led Rio Grande Valley to a league championship in 2013, two years after guiding Iowa to a title.
Nurse was 23 when he became head coach of Grand View College, making him the youngest college basketball coach in the U.S.
He spent 11 seasons as a head coach in the British Basketball League with the Birmingham Bullets (1995-96), Manchester Giants (1998-2000), London Towers (2000-01) and Brighton Bears (2000-06). Nurse won league titles with Birmingham in 1996 and in 2000 with the Giants.
Nurse succeeded Dwane Casey as Toronto’s head coach in May 2018. Casey was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs.
Nurse has served as head coach of the Canadian national team since June 2019. He signed a contract extension two years later that runs through the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Canadian men haven’t played in the Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2023.
The Canadian Press