The Toronto Raptors parted with coach Nick Nurse on Friday, clearing the way for Ime Udoka to become a serious candidate to replace him, sources told ESPN.
Nurse, who coached the Raptors to the franchise’s first NBA title in 2019, met with team president Masai Ujiri several times in recent days before the decision was made Friday, sources said.
Toronto finished 41-41 this season before losing to the Chicago Bulls in the 9-10 game of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
“To watch us play this year was not us,”
“I did not enjoy watching this team play. I think that spoke loud and clear to everything that went on this year. It bothered all of us.
“It bothered Coach too, but sometimes we have to make change and we have to move forward.”Ujiri said at a news conference.
The Raptors blew a 19-point third-quarter lead in the loss to the Bulls, which Ujiri said “summed up what has gone on in this organization.”
“The feel, the spirit of who we really are, it’s been very disappointing for us,”
“We want to gain momentum back as a team. Togetherness, culture, all the things we’ve stood for here, I think we lacked this year.”Ujiri said.
Sources said Nurse had one year and more than $8 million left on his contract.
Udoka has a long relationship with Ujiri and is expected to be a prominent part of the Raptors’ coaching search, sources said. Udoka was suspended by the Boston Celtics before the start of the 2022-23 season for multiple violations of team rules. He was replaced by Joe Mazzulla, who was given the permanent coaching position in February.
The Raptors have several important personnel decisions to make in the offseason, including with free agents Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl and Gary Trent, and whether to extend Pascal Siakam.
Nurse leaves Toronto with the 2019 championship, the 2020 NBA Coach of the Year award and a 227-163 (.582) record in five seasons as coach.
Nurse will now be a part of the Houston Rockets’ coaching search, sources said. The Rockets are progressing toward a second round of interviews, which is expected to include former Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel, Udoka and Nurse, sources said. Former Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego also made a strong impression in his interview, sources said.