Last year when the Toronto Raptors hoisted the NBA Championship Trophy above their heads, the entire world seemed to watch. The Toronto Raptors had overcome one of the strongest NBA dynasties in recent memory in order to break their own cursed history to win a title. In doing so, Toronto had awoken something in fans from across the border as the Raptors made their claim on the top of the East. Then the NBA offseason happened and superstar Kawhii Leonard left for greener pastures. Coach Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors were suddenly left dry. In response, the Raptors would go on to place second in the NBA during the regular season, winning 73.6% of their games. Now, Coach Nurse is holding the Coach of the Year Trophy above his head.
When Nick Nurse was announced as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, analysts were bullish on the idea of the Raptors suddenly becoming a contender. At the time that his name was announced for the job, Nurse had been an associate coach with the Toronto Raptors. Nurse was lauded for how well he worked with former head coach Dwane Casey to craft a potent offense that would, unfortunately, get swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018. Casey was summarily fired and Nurse was handed the job as a first=time Head Coach.
After watching Kawhi Leonard leave Toronto behind, expectations were generally low for the Toronto Raptors despite having just won a World Championship. Despite low-expectations and the fatigue of their prior championship run, the Toronto Raptors gelled around their new unit almost immediately. Toronto would go on to land a record of 53 – 19 on the way to the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto would match against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Playoffs where the Raps have a 3 – 0 lead at the time of this writing.
Among Nurse’s most high-profile accomplishments is the way he has fostered the burgeoning stardom of undrafted shooting guard, Fred VanVleet. Fred VanVleet was signed by Toronto out of Wichita State where VanVleet helped Ron Banker to make the Shockers a competitive squad. VanVleet, a Rockford Native, would spend his first two seasons with the team as a back-up before taking a substantial step forward in 2020 under the full-time guidance of Nick Nurse. VanVleet would finish the regular season with career highs of 17.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 6.6 APG. Of course, Nurse’s real shine comes from the postseason where he has compiled a 19 – 8 record over the past two years, just two victories shy of franchise leading Dwane Casey at 21 – 30. Casey’s struggles in the postseason would play a pivotal role in the power transition between Dwane Casey and current head coach Nick Nurse.
Despite the hurdles surrounding the NBA’s continuation in a COVID-riddled world, the Toronto Raptors continue to lay claim to the hefty mantle that their coach now possesses. Destined for another deep run in the postseason, the Raptors would be ecstatic to see Coach Nurse receive 90 out of 100 potential Coach of the Year votes. Nurse would end up blowing out the competition in the run-up to Coach of the Year, sweeping by familiar names like Mike Budenholzer (MIL) and Billy Donovan (OKC). Nurse would end up with a total of 470 points for Coach of the Year, 323 more than his closest competition.
Nick Nurse has compiled a 111 – 43 record over the span of his first two seasons, thus rewarding team president Masai Ujiri for handing him the opportunity. Departing from Dwane Casey had not been an easy move for Ujiri as the former head coach had led the franchise in victories. Still, Nurse would earn the position after spending five years within the Toronto system as an assistant. With another shot at a title in 2020, Nick Nurse has a real opportunity to stake his claim as best coach in the game.