Insider says beef with assistant coach influenced Raptors’ Nick Nurse firing

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Head Coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Head Coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors kicked off their pivotal 2023 offseason with a bang, firing head coach Nick Nurse after a disappointing 41-41 season ended in a play-in elimination. The hunt for his replacement, as well as answers to why he was canned in the first place, goes on.

Nurse may have helped the Raptors win their first championship, but in a “what have you done for me lately?” league, Nurse winning just one playoff series in four seasons without Kawhi Leonard was enough for Ujiri to seek a regime change.

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star penned a column in which he hinted that Ujiri was not pleased with how star players like Fred VanVleet kept seeing their roles shift or the lack of development from young players. Nurse and assistant Earl Watson also didn’t see eye to eye, which may have played a role in his dismissal.

“Nurse and Earl Watson were never going to pal around or hang out away from the arena or practice facility, and it wasn’t a huge issue, but it was a thing people around the game noticed,” Smith said. It’s not to say Watson undercut Nurse at every chance…but it was another layer that grew thicker as the season went on.

Smith also said that there were people from outside the organization who were promoting Watson as a potential Nurse successor if he was fired in the middle of the season. While this may not amount to a power struggle or be the main reason Nurse was let go, this relationship certainly didn’t help.

Toronto Raptors: Nick Nurse and Earl Watson didn’t get along.

Watson, who might have a very remote shot at succeeding Nurse as the head coach, was not very good during his tenure in charge of the Suns, but the general lack of talent around him and looming Robert Sarver scandal likely explained why he had such a difficult time.

The Watson reports continued to show that Nurse’s abrasive personality was why he was let go. While being fiery can often produce solid short-term results, it can also wear down players to the point where the only way forward was a completely new direction on the sideline.

The Raptors bet hard on Nurse and their internal development this season, and they crashed so hard that Nurse lost his job. Considering all of the rumblings coming out over the last few days detailing the final stages of the Nurse era, the decision is becoming less surprising.

Next. 5 Raptors who won't be back next season. dark