Why did a Long Head Coaching Search End with Raptors Hiring Nurse?
Why Nick Nurse?
A popular question that has been circling through Toronto amid Raptor fans for the past week. After letting go of NBA Coach of the Year finalist Dwane Casey, the Raptors commenced a long and tedious search for their next head coach. Last week, a month of interviewing, rumours, and hard work came to an end as Masai Ujiri named Nurse as the team’s new bench boss.
Nurse, a veteran coach who spent last year alongside Casey as an assistant and infamously innovated the Raptors’ highly publicized new style of offence – a more modern style of offence.
“He thinks the game differently,” Ujiri said during the official introductory press conference. “In the NBA, we’re a copy-cat league. That’s what we are. We copy everything that everybody else is doing. I’d love not to be that and go different ways, whether they are new, whatever they are. Sometimes they might fail, but what’s the next best thing?”
The Raptors do not have the luxury of having players of the caliber of LeBron James or Kevin Durant suit up in their black and red uniforms. Despite their regular season success under Casey, they have not been able to attract marquee free agents either. The key for the Raptors is in the very words Ujiri uttered last Thursday when the media welcomed the team’s new head coach.
The NBA, like all sports, is a copy cat league.
The Kansas City Royals began the concept of ‘bullpening’, shortening games for their starters and using one-inning untouchable relievers to bridge their way to victories. In 2015, they became World Series champions and the rest of the league begun employing the Royals’ model for victory.
The same can be said with the NBA’s new analytical boom surrounding ball movement, stretching the floor, and hoisting more threes for the sake of efficient offence. Mike D’Antoni started the process with the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors perfected it. The Cleveland Cavaliers and virtually every team has followed the winning blueprint.
As the NBA becomes more analytically driven, the teams that succeed, are the teams who innovate, the teams who find more efficient ways to score – and the teams who load up on superstars, which the Raptors simply won’t be able to do. Using analytics to their advantage is really the only way for the Raptors to succeed in a league that is dominated by only a handful of teams. That is why Nick Nurse is at the helm – an offensive mind who is not afraid to experiment – to do things differently and stray away from the status quo.
“I think the game in general is changing so fast right before our eyes,” Nurse echoed during his press conference. “I think it’s changed so much in the last five years, it’s changed so much in the last three years. So I think the leadership that I’m bringing and the coaching staff that we’ll eventually hire, we’ve gotta be innovative, we’ve gotta be trying to think of what’s coming next before it comes next if we want to stay ahead of the game.”
As the Raptors enter a crucial summer, Ujiri has let it be known that no piece is untouchable. With Nurse now at the helm, the real work is set to begin.