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Canada Basketball makes it official, hands the reins to NBA champ Nurse

Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse talks to media at a press conference on Sunday June 16, 2019. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)
Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse talks to media at a press conference on Sunday June 16, 2019. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network) - Postmedia News

The process itself may have left a little to be desired but as Basketball Canada GM Rowan Barrett suggested, no one is arguing with the end result.

A somewhat convoluted search for the next head coach of Canada’s senior men’s national team program ended with Nick Nurse, the head coach of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

So who argues?

The actual news of the appointment leaked a few weeks ago, but with Nurse and the Raptors in the midst of what turned out to be a championship run, the team and Basketball Canada did its best to limit the distraction.

Basketball Canada waited until yesterday to unveil their new head coach through the 2020 Summer Olympics, which played into some of the confusion.

Nurse, in the familiar confines of the OVO Centre, the Raptors’ practice facility and looking decidedly unpractice-like in full suit was somewhat vague about how the whole thing came about, but left no uncertainty about how thrilled he is to get back to the world of international basketball.

Nurse was an assistant for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics in London and counts that as one of the true great learning experiences of his extensive coaching career.
He’s hoping his head coaching role with Canada will be no less valuable to him in that regard.

“I see a tremendous opportunity for growth for myself,” Nurse said Monday. “That’s always really, really important to me. And two great competitions (2019 World Cup in Beijing, 2020 Olympics, assuming Canada qualifies in Tokyo) covering this summer and next. It’s just an opportunity that doesn’t come around anybody’s life, a coach’s life, whatever, very often. Again, I’m honoured to be able to do it and excited to do it.”

The news extends an already incredibly long and arduous 2019 for Nurse who helped bring Canada its first ever NBA championship. There were a handful of boxes Nurse had to check off before he could do it.

“Would it fit in time wise without having any serious ramifications to the Raptors?” Nurse said. “Did I want to give up my summer vacations to do it? Obviously my wife and family had to support the thing, that was big as well. I was probably at about 65% and my wife said,100% you take that job,’ so here I am.”

And don’t worry about Nurse not knowing either the Canadian talent or the FIBA game. He’s well versed in both.

“I know a lot, if not all of them, from a standpoint of either coaching against them, coaching with them — we’ve had a lot of guys at Summer League, we’ve had guys on our G-League team, guys on our team as well — so there’s not a name up there I don’t know or haven’t seen play,” Nurse said of the Canadian talent pool.

Nurse will have a three- man assistant staff to aid him with Gord Herbert, a one-time Raptors assistant and long-time European coach already named to the staff. The rest of the group will be filled out very soon according to Barrett.

Barrett initially stated he wanted to announce the head coach much earlier but said the sheer number of interested parties from all over the world who showed an interest in this job pushed the timetable back.

“We wanted the best person to lead us to where we need to go,” Barrett said. “The amount of people who reached out from around the globe — NBA coaches, coaches from the EuroLeague, many wanted in on this opportunity. They were as excited for this opportunity as many of us are here in Canada.”

As for the players that will make up the team, the buy-in is greater than ever for a country that hasn’t always been able to send its best and brightest.

“When you go to see an NBA player, you don’t get too far without them saying, ‘I’m in for this summer. Give me the schedule. I want to know what’s going on,’” Barrett said.

Among the NBA talent Barrett and Nurse will be drawing from is a list that includes Cory Joseph (Pacers), Tristan Thompson (Cavs), Dwight Powell (Mavericks), Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Andrew Wiggins (T-Wolves), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), Shae-Gilgeous Alexander (Clippers) and newest New York Knicks arrival R.J. Barrett. The World Cup begins Aug. 31 and goes through Sept 15th. Canada has drawn into a very tough group that includes Lithuania, Australia and Senegal.

The Canadian team will have an extensive run up to the tournament through most of August, including a training camp in Toronto, and games in Australia against its national team, New Zealand and the U.S.

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The talent is coming in waves. The table is set for success on the world stage with a championship pedigree head coach and a ever-growing roster to choose from.

Now Canada Basketball just needs corporate Canada to get on board and give the program the final push it needs.

“The more successful we are, the more resources we need and I’m sure corporate Canada is going to catch up to Canada Basketball sooner rather than later and provide the support we need,” Glen Grunwald, the president and CEO of Canada Basketball said Monday at a news conference to introduce Nick Nurse as the head coach of the senior men’s national team.

Having already qualified for this summer’s World Cup in China the hope is for a top two finish among the seven Americas entrants in that tournament which would guarantee a spot in next summer’s Olympic games in Japan.

That’s a huge expense and one with which Canada Basketball is going to need some help.

“The more successful we are, the more we have to travel around the globe,” Grunwald said. “It would be great to get some corporate support from various airline companies and things of that nature and that way we can continue to improve what we’re doing and continue to improve the sport.”

mganter@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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