Toronto Raptors Fire Nick Nurse, Ime Udoka to Take Over?

The 2019 NBA Title-winning coach Nick Nurse was fired by the Toronto Raptors in reaction to their failure to make the 2023 NBA Playoffs. After a below-average 2022/23 regular season the Raptors never found inspiration in the play-in either and suffered an early exit. However, it seems the sacking of Nick Nurse had been coming for months based on some comments made by Toronto’s President Masai Ujiri in the wake of the announcement.

How Did It Get To Nurse’s Sacking?

Nick Nurse’s position has been discussed last summer after the Raptors had a below-average campaign in 2021/22. In reality, ever since their amazing run to a first-ever NBA Title in franchise history in 2019, Nick Nurse’s record has been nothing worth boasting about. In the last 3 years, Nurse’s Raptors barely averaged a .540 winning percentage. They won just one playoff series since their title-winning run.

As the Toronto GM Masai Ujiri revealed in his press conference that delivered the Nurse’s firing announcement: “Watching this team play this year was not us … I did not enjoy watching this team play,”

Ujiri expanded further on the rationale behind this decision. Hinting that the writing was on the wall for many months in regard to his desire to see the Raptors hit the reset button. Asked about his satisfaction with players’ development that was his response:

“The answer there is no” — Ujiri when asked if he was happy with development of young players last two years. “… we didn’t do so well and it hurt us …”

Ujiri then explained the organisation’s plans going forward: “This is an opportunity for us to reset, to refocus, to put into place the personnel and the players who will help us reach our goal of winning our next championship.”

Nick Nurse
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA
Photo by Icon Sport

Is Ime Udoka the next Raptors Head Coach?

Nurse hasn’t even emptied his office yet but the speculations regarding who will be Toronto Raptors’ new Head Coach are gathering pace and one name is pulling ahead as the front-runner. Ime Udoka jump-started his career last season when he led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals.

Ime Udoka got suspended by the Celtics right before the 2022/23 season started for what the organisation called: “an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team staff.”

Ime Udoka was an undrafted player back in 2000 and yet he played 316 regular season games in the NBA for 5 different teams before retiring in 2011. Since then he was first an assistant coach under the legendary Gregg Popovich at the Spurs (2012-2019). He then spent a year as an assistant coach first at the 76ers and then in 2020-21 at the Nets where he got first-hand experience of having to deal with superstars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

In his first job as a head coach, Udoka led the Celtics to a 51-31 regular season record in 2021-22 and then he guided them to the NBA Finals where they lost 2-4 vs the Warriors. Udoka was 4th in the Coach of the Year voting that season. Clearly, despite this very small sample of Udoka’s coaching skills, he has shown great promise.

During his year in charge at Boston, the Celtics were ranked number 1 in defensive efficiency and 9th in offensive efficiency. When the Raptors won their only title in 2019 they had the number 1 defence and were 11th in offensive efficiency. Could this be Udoka’s main trump card as he gets invited for a job interview by Toronto’s front office?

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About the author


Iskra had a promising, at least she believed so, tennis and volleyball careers as a junior but a series of injuries ended her hopes to become a professional athlete very early.

Instead, she focused all her energy on her other passion, writing. For over a decade, Iskra had been a freelance sports writer. Football, basketball and tennis are the main fields of her expertise.