The Houston Rockets are deep into their head coaching search as they have brought in several candidates, including big names like Ime Udoka and Frank Vogel. The Rockets also plan on bringing in Rockets legend Sam Cassell for an interview Sunday.
One name that has been floating around since the Rockets decided not to exercise the fourth year of Stephen Silas contract has been Nick Nurse. However, the Rockets hadn't brought in Nurse for an interview because he was still under contract with the Toronto Raptors. Well, that all changed with today's news.
Nick Nurse is out as Raptors coach, sources tell ESPN. pic.twitter.com/HEKwTAdfUH— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 21, 2023
With Nurse now out as Raptors coach, reports suggest Nurse will be part of the Rockets second phase of interviews.
The Rockets are progressing toward a second-round of interviews, which are expected to include Ime Udoka, Frank Vogel and the introduction of Nick Nurse into the process, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/Oq7wscq9Bv— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 21, 2023
With today's news, Rockets fans are becoming more curious about Nurse's coaching style, why his tenure ended in Toronto, and what else they could expect from the former coach of the year if he does decide to take over the Rockets head coaching job.
I spoke with Vivek Jacob, who is cohost of Locked on Raptors and writes for Raptors.com and CBCSPORTS.ca. Jacob talked about Nurse's coaching style and his development of young players throughout his time as Raptors head coach.
My first question is, how long have you been covering the Toronto Raptors?
I’ve been covering the Raptors since the 2016-17 season.
For a while, the fate of Nick Nurse was in question. But, with today's news of his firing, how surprised were you that it happened so soon and that he was fired instead of "a mutual parting of ways."
It was definitely more likely that both parties moved on after his comments in Philadelphia and that took away the surprise element. As far as the wording is concerned, will go with the official statement that was released and said “relieved of his duties.” I think that just leaves him in position to get his money if he doesn’t take an opportunity this upcoming season (unlikely).
Some people say that the Raptors championship in 2019 was more about Kawhi Leonard than anyone else. Do you feel like Nurse should get more credit for that championship?
At least here in Canada, we give a lot of credit to Nurse for his tactical innovation during the playoffs. His variety in defensive schemes was tremendous and his man management during the season was very effective as well. There was a stretch in the regular season when Kawhi was playing subpar and Nurse called him out on it and Kawhi ended up crediting Nurse publicly. For a rookie NBA head coach to know which buttons to push at the right time was very impressive.
Do you think it was a matter of players tuning him out and the Raptors just needed a new voice, or was it another reason Nurse was fired?
There were reports that the Raptors weren't happy with Nick Nurse's free-flowing offense and wanted more structure. How true is this, and if so, is this something that you saw from Nurse from the beginning?
While I think his demanding style definitely wore thin, I don’t think this roster was suited for his preferred coaching style. The frustration probably began at some point in 2021-22 but winning cures all. Now, with so much disappointment in 2022-23 after raised expectations, it reared its head.
What is Nurse's best attribute as a head coach?
Draymond Green says there are 82-game players and 16-game players, Nick Nurse is absolutely a 16-game coach and there aren’t many of them around.
The Raptors have had several young players who have played significant minutes. How good would you say is Nurse at developing young talent?
I would consider youth development to be one of Nurse’s weaknesses. During his time in Toronto, Nurse shied away from putting development ahead of winning and that resulted in a heavy burden for the starters. Siakam led the league in minutes per game the last two seasons while VanVleet is right up there as well.
How much influence, if any, did Nurse have when it came to roster construction, and do you think that will be one of his requirements in his next head coaching job?
The demands of each coaching job in the league are subjective so I won’t speculate on whether he’ll have a role in roster construction with a new team or not. While I think he bought into what the front office wanted to do in Toronto the last couple years with the roster, I don’t think he necessarily agreed with it deep down.
What is one thing that Rockets fans should know about Nick Nurse?
One thing Rockets fans should know? This is a coach that will be committed to winning every game his team steps out on the floor for.
One last question and, of course, the most critical question. Do you think Nurse would even consider going to a team like the Rockets, who expect to win next season but are coming off three down seasons, or is he looking for a more established team?
Considering the relationship he has with the franchise (having coached the Vipers) and the potential of adding a top player in the draft, I certainly see the appeal for him. For a franchise looking to transition from development at all costs to winning, he could be the right piece.
Thank you again to Vivek Jacob for providing great insight into the Nick Nurse situation. Make sure to follow Jacob on Twitter, as he provides excellent coverage of the Raptors. In addition, DreamShake will be here all offseason, providing updates on the Rockets coaching search.