It came down to the Phoenix Suns or the Sixers and it may be that Nurse’s relationship with current 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey made the difference. The duo has already won a title together. In 2011, Nurse, 55, was hired by Morey to coach the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the G League (then the NBA developmental league) team affiliated with the Houston Rockets.
In the 2012-2013 season, the Vipers won the title, Morey’s second in his six years coaching in the G League. As a first-time head coach with the Raptors, Morey took the team to the championship, compiling a 227-163 record. They beat the Sixers, led by Embiid, in the Eastern Conference Finals en route to the chip.
Nurse was fired in April after the Raptors went a dismal 41-41, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference, then losing to the Chicago Bulls.
“To watch us play this year was not us,” Raptors Masai Ujuri said in a post-firing press conference. “I did not enjoy watching this team play. I think that spoke loud and clear about everything that went on this year. It bothered all of us. It bothered coach, too. Sometimes we have to make a change and we have to move forward.”
Despite the bumpy end in Toronto, Nurse’s hiring has been met with positivity from Sixers beat writers and the rest of the sports media along with, reportedly, Joel Embiid, the NBA’s reigning MVP.
All in the heat of the battle of course, but Nurse will have to have Embiid on his side to have any chance of winning in Philly. The fate of James Harden in a Sixers uniform remains unknown. He can decline his player option and become a free agent or resign with the team. But recent speculation has him suiting up for the Rockets again, with their new coach, the controversial Ime Udoka.
Current Raptors star Fred Van Vleet approved the hire, saying, “He’s going to bring new ideas, creative ideas. It’s going to be a great breath of fresh air for them. He’s definitely a different guy but certainly one of the top coaches in the NBA and we saw that with us winning a championship.”
VanVleet, it should be noted, can also decline his player option and become a free agent this year. Let the speculation begin.
See how Twitter’s reacting to the head coach hiring below.
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