Nick Nurse briefly turned the Toronto Raptors into one of the NBA's hottest brands. Serving with the team since 2013, Nurse took over as head coach in 2018. Despite going 59-23 the previous season, long-time head coach Dwayne Casey was fired after being swept in the Conference Semifinals by Cleveland. Nurse took Toronto all the way to a title in his first season, while also bringing to Kawhi Leonard to Canada.
However, Nurse has never been able to replicate that first-year success. Leonard left for LA in the offseason, meaning the Raptors traded a first-round pick for a championship. That 2019 first-rounder became Keldon Johnson, the Spurs' leading scorer this past season. After winning 53 games the next season, the Raptors have completely dropped off. They won just 27 games in the 20/21 season and finished with a .500 record in the most recent season. As for the postseason, they lost in the first round in the 21/22 campaign and were outclassed by the Bulls in this year's Play-In tournament.
Raptors Look To "Reset"
On April 21, the Raptors fired Nurse as head coach. Nurse had one year left on his contract and had met with Team President Masai Ujiri numerous times to discuss the plan going forward. However, it appears that Ujiri had other plans. In a statement, Ujiri said that the decision to move on from Nurse was "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."
So what's next for the Raptors, and for Nurse? Sources who spoke to ESPN said that former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is a serious contender to take the Toronto job. Udoka has been a free agent since the Celtics suspended and later fired him for conduct violations. Meanwhile, Nurse may not have to wait long for his next role, as sources say that he is a prominent candidate for the vacant position with the Rockets. However, the move ends an era for the Raptors and the team will now look to find a new direction. The team holds a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.