The Toronto Raptors fired Nick Nurse on Friday, who coached the team for five seasons, won the championship in the 2018-19 season, and followed that up by winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2020.
This has cleared the way for Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka to become a serious candidate to replace him, sources told ESPN.
“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 in a statement. “As we reflect on Nick’s many successes, we thank him and his family and wish them the best in the future.”
Toronto’s decision follows Nurse’s noncommittal comments on his future with the franchise, which, according to TSN insider Josh Lewenberg, did not go over well with the Raptor’s front office.
“First of all, I think when the season gets done, we’ll evaluate everything, and even personally, I’m going to take a few weeks to see where I’m at, you know?” Nurse told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps ahead of the East play-in tournament. “Like you said, where my head’s at. And just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything.”
Sources say that Nurse had one year and more than $8 million left on his contract.
Nurse has been regarded as the best tactical coach in basketball. His strategies have helped the Raptors win games they likely shouldn’t have. He compiled a 227-163 record as the coach and took the Raptors to three total playoff appearances in his five seasons leading the franchise. Previously, Nurse worked in the G League, winning two championships as a head coach.
Nurse will now be a part of the Houston Rockets coaching search. The Rockets are working toward their second round of interviews which will include former Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel, Udoka, and Nurse. Sources say former Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego has also made a strong impression in his interview.