Meeting the Zen Master

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Nurse Spent Three-Days Learning from Phil Jackson Before Rookie Year

As a basketball coach, there is no better mentor to learn from than the Zen Master, Phil Jackson.

The legendary head coach guided the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to 11 NBA championship during his Hall of Fame career. A master of the infamous triangle offence, Jackson won two NBA championships as a player and currently holds one of the most revered names across all of professional sports.

Toronto Raptors vice president of player health and performance Alex McKechnie was able to pull some strings to help set up a meeting between Jackson and the then newly hired head coach Nick Nurse. Before Nurse led the Raptors to the franchise’s first ever championship victory, he had the privilege to spend three days with Jackson in the former Laker coach’s Montana home.

“I get there, we go have a cup of coffee and he says ‘Hop in my truck’ and we drive around the lake for a couple hours,” Nurse told Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. “I’m just kind of sitting there with the windows down going, ‘Wow.’”

Through nearly two seasons at the helm, Nurse has boasted the highest winning percentage of any head coach in NBA history (71.2%). Prior to the start of the league hiatus, the Raptors held a 46-18 record good for second in the Eastern Conference.

“You’ve heard a lot of those guys in ‘The Last Dance’ talk about it, I think that, again, five guys being integral parts of the offense like we like to run it now – ours is less of a triangle and more of a big, spaced-out square – but it got better over the year and then they’re in a situation where now there’s more opportunities for them,” Nurse said.

It’s safe to say, Nurse did not squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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