MANILA, Philippines – Nick Nurse, an assistant coach who helped the Toronto Raptors reach the NBA playoffs in each of the past 5 seasons, was named Thursday, June 14, as the Canadian club's new coach.
The 50-year-old mentor replaced the fired Dwane Casey, who went 320-238 over 7 seasons with the Raptors and guided the team to 4 Atlantic division titles and a record club-record 59 wins last season.
But Nurse is now tasked to revive and reinforce a shattered Raptors squad that saw their championship aspirations end the same way it always has in the last 3 years – at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan still leading the team, the pressure is on Nurse to steer the Raptors away from the same dismal postseason fate before his stars get fed up and go for greener pastures.
Nurse had been an assistant with the Raptors since 2013 but has been coaching for nearly 30 years. He had stints in the NBA D-League (now G-League) and the British Basketball League, where he won a championship in 1996 with the Birmingham Bullets.
"Nick is an innovative coach who has a tremendous basketball IQ, and a unique approach to the Xs and Os," Raptors president Masai Ujiri said.
Under Nurse's detailed planning, the Raptors ranked among the NBA's top 10 in scoring in 3 of the past 5 seasons, setting club record with 111.7 points a game and 968 3-pointers made last season.
"I'm proud to take on the role of head coach of the Toronto Raptors and to continue to work with the exceptional players we have here," Nurse said.
"I've watched this group grow and succeed together. I'm looking forward to more of that this season, and to working towards our shared goal, which is to earn the right to call ourselves NBA champions."
Meanwhile, Casey did not stay on the unemployment list for long as he was hastily signed to a 5-year deal by the Detroit Pistons.
Casey had been appointed to replace former coach Stan Van Gundy, who was sacked at the end of the regular season.
The 36th Pistons coach is expected to receive around $7 million a year. News of the appointment comes exactly one month after Casey was dismissed by the Raptors.
Under Casey, the Raptors won a record 59 games this season to secure top seeding in the Eastern Conference.
However the Raptors flopped in the playoffs, suffering a 4-0 clean sweep by Cleveland in the second round, sealing Casey's fate.
The Pistons finished the regular season with a 39-43 record and Casey will be expected to lead them back to the playoffs next year.
The 61-year-old, who coached in the Japan league and served as an assistant coach for Japan's national team from 1989 to 1994, spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach with Seattle before getting his first NBA head coaching job at Minnesota, going 53-69 before being fired in January 2007.
He spent 3 seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, helping them win the 2011 NBA crown, leading to his move to the Raptors in 2011. – With reports from Agence France-Presse