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Nick Nurse out as Raptors head coach

Nick Nurse Raptors
(Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Nick Nurse out as Raptors head coach

The Toronto Raptors have fired head coach Nick Nurse, The Athletic‘s Shams Charania was first to report Friday.

“The decision to make a change like this is never arrived at easily or taken lightly,” Raptors Vice Chairman and President Masai Ujiri said Friday, via release. “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 reportedly had one year for north of $8 million left on his contract.

He spent five years as a Raptors assistant under former head coach Dwane Casey and five years as head coach. He went 227-163, making the playoffs in three separate seasons, highlighted by winning the NBA Title in 2018-19 — his first season as the Raptors’ head coach. Nurse was named the NBA’s coach of the year in 2019-20 after his squad finished 53-19 in the COVID-shortened campaign.

The Raptors now join the Detroit Pistons and the Houston Rockets as teams with head coaching vacancies.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski cited that former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is expected to be a serious candidate in the Raptors head coaching search. Udoka went 51-31 in his lone season in Boston in 2021-22, leading them to an NBA Finals berth before being suspended by the team for the season for an improper relationship with a team employee. Udoka has since been replaced by Joe Mazzulla.

Nurse, however, is expected to be a prominent candidate in the Rockets’ head coaching search — as well as former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and Udoka, who both earned second interviews.

This is the start to a long offseason for the Raptors, who now look to find a new voice as well as make plenty of important personnel decisions regarding the team’s core.

Both Fred VanVleet ($22.8M) and Gary Trent Jr. ($18.8M ) have player options that they could pick up, while Jakob Poeltl is a free agent. They also have to decide whether or not to extend Pascal Siakam, who has one more year left on his deal.

Over Nurse’s tenure, the Raptors were forced to play a hyper-aggressive style to compensate for the lack of fashionable halfcourt offense, true big men and reliable bench depth. They got by with VanVleet, Siakam, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Trent Jr., but there weren’t many other trustworthy options behind them. The one’s who became trustworthy under Nurse — looking at you, Jeff Dowtin — weren’t by the brain trust, causing an even further disconnect between both parties.

The Raptors, who are nearly $18 million from the projected $162 million luxury tax threshold, have bird rights on both VanVleet and Trent if either decides to opt-out. So Toronto could theoretically sign both up to max contracts, but with the new CBA restrictions on roster flexibility for teams who blow past the second tax apron (which would be ~$179.5M in ’23-24), even more questions arise on how much teams are willing to commit while maintaining that flexibility.

Regardless, this is the start of a long season for Toronto, which has an abundance of important decisions to make — beginning with their head coach.

This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.

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