Despite leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title in 2019, the team has decided to part with head coach Nick Nurse. This opens the door for Ime Udoka to become a leading candidate for the position.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri talked to Nurse on numerous occasions this week before deciding to go in a different direction with the team. Ujiri released a statement saying, “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. As we reflect on Nick’s many successes, we thank him and his family and wish them the best in the future. This is an opportunity for us to reset, to refocus, to put into place the personnel and the players who will help us reach our goal of winning our next championship.”
Nurse began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with the Raptors from 2013-2018 before replacing Dwane Casey as head coach. He went 58-24 in his first season and 16-8 in the playoffs, winning the NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors. In doing so, he became the first coach to win both the NBA Finals and NBA G League Finals.
The Raptors won 53 games in 2019-20 but were unable to successfully defend their title, losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There was a big collapse for the Raptors the following season, winning only 27 games. They rebounded to 48 wins last season but finished just 41-41 this season, missing the playoffs.
Udoka was suspended by the Boston Celtics for violation of team rules before the beginning of the 2022-23 season and was replaced by Joe Mazzulla, who has become the permanent coach. Ujiri and Udoka have a long relationship, putting Udoka at the top of the new head coach candidates list.
The Houston Rockets are searching for a new head coach, and Nurse should be a prime candidate, including Frank Vogel, who had a 431-389 record with the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Orlando Magic. James Borrego, who has a 148-183 record for the Magic and Charlotte Hornets, is also a candidate for the job. Nurse, who was the 2020 NBA Coach of the Year, posted a 227-163 record over five seasons with the Raptors.
The Raptors are at a turning point with the franchise. In addition to needing a new head coach, they must make decisions regarding key pieces to the puzzle, including Gary Trent, Jakob Poetl, Fred Van Vleet, and Pascal Siakam. Trent averaged 17.4 points in 66 games this season. Poetl played 26 games with the Raptors after coming over from the Kings and averaged 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Van Vleet, who has played his entire 7-year career with the Raptors, averaged 19.3 points per game. Siakam, a two-time All-Star, averaged a career-best 24.2 points per game this season.