New Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was introduced by team president Masai Ujiri at Air Canada Centre on Thursday. There will be a fair amount to digest from this, with Ujiri’s approach to the offseason standing as more important than anything said here. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at some of what Ujiri and Nurse had to say.
You can find the video here.
An opening statement:
“First of all, thank you to everybody, the media, obviously MLSE, I thank everybody for being here on what we feel is a special day for the Toronto Raptors. Congratulations, Nick. This is, I think, a great time for us. I want to go further on and thank everybody in our organization that did the work with this. General manager Bobby Webster, Dan Tolzman, Tersea Resch, and the whole staff, and to our ownership, Larry Tanenbaum. It’s been a big process for us, a long process, but we felt very comfortable with not only the candidates we had but the eventual head coach of the Toronto Raptors. I think Nick has only shown us some of the things he’s going to bring to us. I think his history with the team, his thought process, his creativity, a strategist, I think, in the game, we’re really excited, communicator, motivator, innovative. Everything is something really exciting for us with our program. A big congratulations to you, Nick. We’re really excited. It was a long process but we’re happy we came to this.”
On his first head coaching search:
I know it took long, but you go through the grind of knowing all these candidates and different processes. I even had the privledge of using a leadership consultant coach, knowing the right questions to ask and how to bring the best out of these people and what you want. Nick was outstanding. He really came out on top on this. I actually really enjoyed the process of doing this and meeting some of these guys. You get more knowledge from all the different ideas you hear from these candidates. I did appreciate the process and going through it.
Why Nick Nurse?:
Preparation was a very big thing for him. He preached that, he talked about it, his process, just thinking the game differently. Trying new stuff and being innovative is just who Nick is. You could tell he’s a tactician. He really thinks the game…He thinks the game differently. In the NBA, we’re a copy cat league. That’s what we are. We copy everything that everybody else is doing. I’d love not to be that and go different ways, whether they are new, whatever they are. Sometimes they might fail, but what’s the next best thing. He’s that kind of thinker, to be honest. He was very well prepared to be honest. We like that. Very thoughtful, very respectful, everything you want in a candidate. We appreciated that.
On the roster heading into the draft/free agency:
The roster is an interesting topic for everybody. Do we think it’s a perfect roster? No. We have work to do and we belive that. But as we all know, things just don’t happen overnight in the NBA. It’s not the easiest thing to do. It takes a partner to do these things if you want to make trades. We are open, we’re going to be open going into the draft. We’ll see when it comes.
I don’t want to get into trouble but I love Freddie. I hope I don’t get fined for saying that but I love Freddie. He’s our player and I love him. Whatever it is, Freddie knows we love him.
An opening statement:
: It feels pretty good. It was 27 years, I think, in coaching, and the last month was a long month for me as well. As Masai said, him and Bobby, Teresa, Dan, had a process and some due diligence to do, and to be honest, it never really bothered me, that month of waiting. We met several times and talked things through thoroughly. It’s a big decision for them even though I’ve been across the gym for five years from ’em, there’s a lot of detail to go through. I would like to piggyback on Masai here, if I could, and thank him and Bobby, especially, and Teresa and Dan, part of the process of getting me here. And to thank Larry and the ownership. Especially Larry. I had a very very nice visit with him just a few days ago, it was really enjoyable, we all know what a great guy he is and it was really fun to visit with him. Next, I’d like to thank the players. A lot of them, we’ve been together here five years, and that’s five years in the playoffs, that’s five years of a lot of winning. There’s a core group of guys there that deserve our thanks each and every time we get a chance to say it, and I’d like to express that to the current roster. There’s also a young group of guys that people doubted what they could have done at the beginning of the year last year and they really, for a 12-month process, worked extremely hard and again, I’d just like to thank them for all their hard work.
On what a Nick Nurse team will look like:
I think the game in general is changing so fast right before our eyes. I think it’s changed so much in the last five years, it’s changed so much in the last three years. So I think the leadership that I’m bringing and the coaching staff that we’ll eventually hire, we’ve gotta be innovative, we’ve gotta be trying to think of what’s coming next before it comes next if we want to stay ahead of the game…I think we wanna be creative. I think you’re gonna see some different things. There’s probably gonna be some uncomfortableness at times when we maybe try things that are maybe a little too far outside the box, but again, the season’s a process…We wanna try some ideas and some things and try to put our guys in different positions, try some different combinations, et cetera, to prepare us for the playoffs, which is what matters.
On Dwane Casey:
I think first of all, I need to mention Coach Casey and thank him. He’s the one who originally brought me here as an assistant, and we shared a lot of winning together. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a great professional. I learned a lot from him. You can’t take away the five years of what you shared together.
On changing the team’s fortunes in the playoffs, with an emphasis on defense:
The success that we wanna have is in the playoffs. That’s what every team in the NBA goes for. And we need to make sure we try a few new things here and there, try some different rotations. I think where you’ll see most of that is a little more creativity on the defensive end as the regular season, preseason, just so we can try and be ready for more things in the playoffs. I think the playoffs change so much what happens defensively. The games come at you so fast in the regular season that everybody’s kinda playing their baseline philosophy so much. And it comes to the (playoffs), you’re trying to do some things you haven’t really practiced enough. I hope we can do that and get some different looks at some things so we’re ready to go on both sides of the ball.
But I just think defensively, the game’s changing, there’s so much switching going on, there’s so much you’ve gotta figure out double teams, rotations, how you’re taking away the three, how you’re challenging shots, how you’re protecting the rim. I just think there’s a lot more creative ways being done right now and I think there’s some creative things to do that we can figure out that we’ve kind of thrown out there that we can get our head around and polish up a little bit. It all comes down to this, it all comes down to putting the players in the best position they can be successful, and that includes defense. If a certain guy can’t fight underneath the basket against a bigger guy, well, let’s work on things to keep him on the perimeter.
On the type of staff he’ll look to add (the Raptors currently have two high-end assistant openings and the 905 head coaching spot):
It’s pretty early on all that. It’s now my chance to do some evaluating, looking, and shuffling the pieces a little bit. I will say this, I think I’m going for a certain look to the staff. I’m concentrating on the front of the bench guys now, and I think there’s kinda some categories there that I wanna fill, and I’ve kind of got a depth chart in those categories, and we’ll go from there. I think it’s really important that we get an experienced staff. Guys that have been a head coaches, to me, at some level is important to me. I’m not saying all of them are gonna be that way, but I value head coaching just because it’s good to know what it’s like to be the decision maker, and to have those guys that are assistants that have done that, I just think it channels more, the ideas that they give you, they’re more cosntruvice, they’re more objective, they understand your position a little bit better.
On implementing innovation:
I think if you’re going to be a little bit innovative or risk taking sometimes you’re going to be wrong and it’s going to look bad. I understand that…I’m not saying it’s a hundred things a game but there are some things, some ideas that I have that I want to try and do and we gotta try them. If they don’t work, I’ll stand in front of you guys, take the heat. I’ve already talked to some players about being more open-minded about things we want to do and we’ll go from there.
On Kyle Lowry:
First of all I love him. I’ve never seen a guy compete the way he competes. There is a lot to love about the way he plays and what he’s brought us all, me, the organization, the team. I’ve had guys similar to him in my coaching past. I thought he had a really good year, he shaved his minutes way down, we saved him about 12 games, just by saving the four or five minutes a game. He had a good playoff run, he shot the ball well. I just met with him two nights ago and I think he’s excited to have a better year. Now that he’s got a grasp of his offense a little more now – I know that sounds a little funny – but we changed a lot, offensively, last year, but I’m going to put the ball in his stomach a little bit more and have him run the offense. I look forward to him. I think he’s an unbelievably competitive time and a helluva player.
On Jonas Valanciunas:
I think he had a good year last year. The biggest key for me is that you’ve got to put these guys in positions where they can be successful. And I think we’ve learned a lot more about Jonas and what he can do and not try to expect him to do things he can’t. We’ve either (got to) work on the things he can’t do a lot more, or we’ve just got to build our schemes around doing what he can do really well. And I’m looking forward to this. I’ve got some defensive schemes in my mind that aren’t quite ready to be talked about, but along the lines of that…That’s the biggest thing for him. I think his offense is going to continue to expand. We started in about three years ago when I first went to Lithuania to start working him out. I didn’t do any post moves for like two weeks. I went over there, we were running the floor, bringing the ball up the floor, driving to the basket, doing all these things. And shooting threes. I think we got him handling the ball more this year. He had more fun. I think his knowledge of the game increased a lot more incrementally then it had in years past because he just wasn’t involved. I don’t know. You guys know I like him. He’s out there working every night. He truly, truly cares. Truly, truly wants to win. And he keeps getting a little better.
On Norman Powell:
Well, he first of all needs to get a little bit back in the fold and we’re doing this now with what we’re doing offensively. It was a bit of a player development issue. And I told Masai and those guys in the interviews that I take responsibility a little bit for this because a lot of times I saw him sitting outside working kind of on his own game and then the second unit was over there working as a unit together and they all of a sudden developed a rhythm. It wasn’t that Norm wasn’t working hard because he’s a super hard worker, he’s always one of the first guys in there, does all his work. But that group kind of melded together because of all the rhythm they developed. We’ve got him into that thing and he understands that now. Certainly I’d like him to get a little dirtier, as far as getting on the floor and taking charges, just being a little bit more of a factor defensively because he’s strong and athletic and you’ve got to use that strength and athleticism at the defensive end.
On late-game strategy:
It’s a really super-important part of the game. There’s so many close games that it’s one of the first things that was the biggest difference for me when I came back from Europe to go into the G League – all of a sudden every game seemed close. And after a year in the G League my assistant at the time, we spent the whole summer going through every scenario and pulling film and doing all this stuff, and putting the answers in, what we thought were the right answers. They were our answers, so they were right. And that’s one of the things I tried to sell, is that we may not run the right play. We may not call the right guy’s number, but we’re going to leave that huddle on the same page. And that, to me, is the most important thing. It gives them some confidence, etcetera. It’s the most important thing. It’s very difficult. It’s also very fun. It’s fun to try and X and O at the end of a late game, and you’ve got to approach it that way.