Raptors to promote Nick Nurse to head Coach

The Toronto Raptors are finalizing a deal to promote their assistant coach Nick Nurse to head coach, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

The Raptors have chosen Nurse, who essentially served as the offensive coordinator under their former coach Dwane Casey, to take over for Casey in the wake of Toronto’s second-round playoff exit, according to the people, who were not authorized to discuss the move publicly.

Nurse and the San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina were the main finalists for the job, which came open when Toronto fired Casey shortly after the Raptors suffered a 4-0 sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Raptors started their interview process by meeting with the former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer for the position, but Budenholzer was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks.

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Nurse has been an assistant coach in Toronto dating to the 2013-14 season after stints as head coach with the Iowa Energy and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the N.B.A.’s development league. He got his start in coaching as a student assistant at the University of Northern Iowa in 1989 after finishing his playing career there as a guard. He continued his coaching career in England and served as an assistant coach on Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic team under Chris Finch, who is an assistant coach with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Raptors won a franchise-record 59 games during the regular season and were the league’s only team to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

For some, this hire might be uninspiring. The Raptors fired a successful coach in Casey only to hire one of his assistants. That isn’t much of a change. However, the Raptors are building a culture in Toronto and Nurse can help continue that culture, thanks to being familiar with the organization. There’s value in that. Everybody will just have to wait and see if that was the correct decision.

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