31 August, 2019
15 September
Raptors' NBA title-winning coach Nurse takes the helm of Canada
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Raptors' NBA title-winning coach Nurse takes the helm of Canada

TORONTO (Canada) - Canada have handed the national team reins to Nick Nurse, who just led the Toronto Raptors to the club's first NBA crown in his one and only season as a head coach in the league.

An American who served as an assistant coach for Great Britain when they hosted the 2012 Olympics, Nurse is expected to have a very talented Canada squad, yet one that will have to survive a 'group of death' in the First Round. The Canadians will square off against Australia, Lithuania and Senegal in Group H and must finish in the top two to advance to Group L in the Second Round.

"I’m looking forward to working with this talented group of young players, and to seeing what we can do on the competitive global basketball stage," Nurse said on Monday. "I love the international game.  I also see this as a real chance for me to learn from the world’s best, and for us to represent Canada with pride and distinction."

A top-two finish in that Second Round group would be required for Canada to claim a spot in the Quarter-Finals.

Miami star Kelly Olynyk is expected to be among the Canada players Nurse will coach this summer

Working alongside Nurse as an associate head coach will be Gordie Herbert, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup and two years before that, the Los Angeles Olympics.

Herbert has spent many years coaching professionally in Europe and also led Canada in a couple of victories during the Americas Qualifiers. He has also been named head coach for Canada when they compete in the qualifiers for the FIBA AmeriCup 2021.

Rowan Barrett, the former Canada international who now serves as general manager for the men's team, said of Nurse: "Nick fits our Gold Medal Profile as he is a proven leader with extensive experience coaching FIBA, NBA and other professional leagues around the world. 

"His coaching pedigree shows his ability to win at some of the highest levels and he has a tremendous understanding of the FIBA game and our Canadian NBA players.  We strongly believe that this unique combination gives our players the best opportunity for success at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics."


Canada last played at a FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2010 and lost all five of their games, although defeats to Lithuania (70-68), France (68-63) and New Zealand (71-61) came after solid performances. The national team will have much more star power in China with a host of NBA players expected to be involved.

The Canadians were one of the most impressive teams in the Americas Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, winning 10 of 12 games, a record only matched by the United States.

Nurse, 51, hails from Iowa. He played four seasons at the University of Northern Iowa and finished his career as the school’s all-time 3-point percentage leader (.468).

Much of the early part of his coaching career was in Great Britain, including stints with Birmingham Bullets, Manchester Giants, London Towers and Brighton Bears.

He also coached in the D-League. As head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Nurse had Mike Taylor, now coach of World Cup side Poland, on his staff. Taylor is both a friend and fan of Nurse.

"Nick has a good feel for coaching and leading a team," Taylor said to FIBA.basketball. "He is a creative thinker and is always trying something new or experimenting to find a better way. He creates clear game plans and a competitive environment. What I've seen that is consistent from England to the D-League and now in the NBA is Nick's ability to help his teams click and get on good runs."

Nurse led Rio Grande Valley Vipers with current Poland coach Taylor (wearing red tie) an assistant

Nurse got his big chance in 2013 when he joined the Raptors to work under Dwane Casey.

Nurse then replaced Casey at the helm before the 2018-19 campaign, a move that paid rich dividends for the coach and club. Under Nurse, Toronto had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference Regular Season with 58 wins and 24 defeats.

Talking about the opportunity to coach Canada after Toronto's NBA title-clinching triumph over the Golden State Warriors on June 13, Nurse said: "It's a unique time with the World Cup and the Olympics within a short 13- to 14-month window. And it fits in OK. I'm just giving up some vacation time."

One of Nurse's assistants in Toronto, Sergio Scariolo, is the long-time coach of Spain's national team and will also be at the World Cup.

"I'm getting ready to take another situation soon because I think it's going to make me a better coach," Nurse said.

Toronto won Eastern Conference Play-Off series against Orlando (4-1), Philadelphia (4-3) and Milwaukee (4-2) before knocking off Golden State (4-2) in the NBA Finals.

Glen Grunwald, President & CEO, Canada Basketball said of the coaching appointments: "Following an extensive search for the next head coach of our senior men’s national team, we firmly believe that Nick and Gordie are a great fit for our team moving forward.  By joining Canada Basketball as the full-time associate head coach, Gordie will provide the program with some much-needed consistency and continuity to help us achieve our goals this summer and beyond.

"Nick’s dual role as Head Coach of both Team Canada and the Toronto Raptors is also another important step forward in aligning the Canadian basketball community.  Just like our recent partnership with the NBA and our provincial associations with the Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Program, our goal is that every organization involved in basketball will work together with Canada Basketball as one of our members to support each other.

"In this way, we all can work together to pursue excellence, build community and provide a positive and safe experience to all basketball participants using the same values based approach."