Raptors Vice-Chairman and team President Masai Ujiri has fired Head Coach Nick Nurse.
In a press conference earlier today, Ujiri said this Raptors season “was not us, I did not enjoy watching us this year.”
Ujiri further expressed his desire to ‘bring back the culture, spirit, and momentum’ the Raptors built over the years following a rather lackluster 2022-23 season.
The Raptors went just 41-41, finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference and disappointingly crashing out of the Play-in tournament against the Bulls last week.
The Raptors have now missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons after seven consecutive appearances.
Nurse ultimately helped influence the Raptors’ winning culture throughout his tenure with Toronto, including as an assistant the same year Ujiri joined the Raptors in the 2013-14 campaign- a culture Ujiri now deems lost after this past season.
Nurse coached the Raptors to the 2019 NBA Championship, he also won NBA Coach of the year in the 2019-20 season, and sported a 252-179 record including the playoffs with Toronto.
Humber Women’s Basketball Head Coach Ajay Sharma said this decision had been brewing as the season progressed, exemplified when Nurse claimed his future with the Raptors was ‘far from certain’ in a press conference before a game against the 76ers in late March.
“This decision wasn’t much of a surprise after the season they had. It’s always much easier to move on from a coach than breaking up an entire roste and they need a fresh voice,” said Sharma.
Although Nurse had his flaws as a coach, Sharma praised Nurse for being one of the more innovative and creative coaches in the modern NBA.
“I believe he (Nurse) will have no issue finding a new job with the resume he has,” said Sharma.
“He understands how to coach professionals, he is a courageous coach and he is a trendsetter in the modern NBA when you look at how he made certain game plans popular in today’s NBA such as zone defence and box-and-one defence. He’s going to be successful wherever he ends up,” added Sharma.
Despite Nurses shortcomings this year, Ujiri also said he shoulders the blame for the up-and-down season the Raptors had, and wants to continue instilling a winning culture with Canada’s only NBA team.
“The Raptors have to fix the pothole before it gets bigger,” said Sharma when talking about the Raptors staying competitive and keeping their winning culture to avoid becoming a destination few players want to play for and buy into. This issue plagued the Raptors for quite some time before they won the NBA Championship in the 2018-19 campaign.
To stay in line with Ujiri’s desires, he said the Raptors will still have “big changes” on the way following Nurse’s firing.
Ujiri mentioned General Manager Bobby Webster will be evaluating all options this off-season after a quiet trade deadline even though Raptors’ core players & Nurse favourites such as Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby’s names have been at the forefront of trade rumours on expiring contracts.
Along with inevitably finding Nurse’s replacement, Ujiri pinpointed areas of the Raptors that need improvement such as shooting, frontcourt depth, managing roles better, and looking at the roster in different ways to determine who fits and who doesn’t.
Above all, Ujiri stressed this isn’t the end of the Raptors success, and is beyond confident they will not only get their momentum back, but they will lift the Larry O’Brien trophy again.
“We’re about winning here…. I believe that we’re going to win again in Toronto. I feel strongly about that,” said Ujiri.