As the offseason begins for the Philadelphia 76ers, the next item on the to-do list is to find a replacement for Doc Rivers. Rivers was dismissed from the team after three seasons, all of which ended in the second round of the playoffs, and the Sixers now find themselves searching for the franchise’s 26th head coach.
Shortly after it was announced that Rivers would be dismissed by the team, a short list of potential candidates came out. Among the names listed were current Sixers assistant Sam Cassell, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Mike D’Antoni, who worked closely with James Harden and Daryl Morey with the Houston Rockets, and former Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
Nick Nurse’s coaching career started back in 1990 as a player-coach for the Derby Rams in the British Basketball League. His lone season as a player-coach led to a an opportunity to become the youngest head coach in the country (23), for Grand View University. After two seasons, Nurse became an assistant at the University of South Dakota. Two years later and Nurse would return to England to coach for 11 seasons.
Flash forward to 2007 and Nurse would finally make his debut in the NBA, in the D-League for the Iowa Energy. He would spend six total years in the D-League earning a reputation as a tactician with a affinity for player development. He would eventually parlay that experience into a position with the Toronto Raptors as an assistant coach before succeeding Dwayne Casey as the team’s head coach.
Over five seasons with the Raptors, Nurse would finish his tenure with a 58.2% winning percentage while making the playoffs three times. He would go on to lead the team to their first championship in franchise history in 2019, the year that saw his Raptors overtake the Philadelphia 76ers thanks to the Kawhi Leonard quadruple bounce.
What Nurse could bring to the 76ers
Nick Nurse brings a very unique brand of basketball to the table. He looks to exploit his opponent’s weakness while maximizing his own players which sounds standard enough except he adds a touch of the unexpected to keep his opponent off balance.
Offensively, Nurse likes to keep ball movement crisp while his players look for the competitive advantage against the defense. If they can’t or the defense does well to prevent this, then the offense will continue moving the ball so as to keep the defenders in a constant state of movement.
Defensively, he’s known for an aggressive, hard-nosed style. Nurse could bring out the most of players like De’Anthony Melton and Jaden Springer while also unlocking new heights in players like Tyrese Maxey and Jalen McDaniels — assuming the later returns to the 76ers this offseason.
Why the 76ers may be wise to look elsewhere
A couple knocks on the prospective hire would be his usage, or lack thereof, of many of Toronto’s young players and his quite blunt approach to his players.
While players like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes have all played well under Nurse, he has not afforded many opportunities to some of the team’s other young prospects. One of the frequent criticisms of the 76ers former coach Doc Rivers was quite similar as the youth seemed anything but a priority outside of Tyrese Maxey who forced his way to the top.
Then there’s Nick Nurse’s frequent habit of publically calling out his players. That, of course, is the decision of the head coach yet, more often than not, players prefer to be the first ones to hear of gripes from their coach — and understandably so. While this personality trait may not affect a player like Tyrese Maxey, a hardened and proven star like James Harden or 2023 MVP Joel Embiid may not be so receptive to that style of coaching.
Will the 76ers meet with Nick Nurse?
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, Nurse is already set for a meeting with the Sixers’ brass sometime in the upcoming week. A combination of team ownership and management will be present to discover if Nurse is the person for the job to lead the Philadelphia 76ers not just past the second round but to their first championship since 1983.