The Philadelphia 76ers went all-in with their NBA championship pursuit on Monday, selecting veteran Nick Nurse as their new coach to try to win the franchise’s first title since 1983.
The 76ers hired the 55-year-old Nurse after his exit last month from the Toronto Raptors, a person with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The person spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the move.
Nurse led the Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship after they beat Joel Embiid and the 76ers in Game 7 of the the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Nurse will replace Doc Rivers, who was fired after he led the 76ers to their second straight 50-win season behind NBA MVP Embiid but again failed to lead them to the Eastern Conference finals.
The 76ers held a 3-2 semi-finals series lead against Boston before dropping Game 6 at home and were crushed in Game 7 on the road.
The 76ers still have to decide if they will try to bring back veteran James Harden, but making a move for a championship-winning coach like Nurse shows the franchise is still all-in as it goes for its first title in 40 years.
Nurse went 227-163 in his five seasons as coach in Toronto, where his .582 winning percentage ranks as the best of any coach in Raptors history. He also spent five years as an assistant to former Raptors coach Dwane Casey before taking over the top job.
Nurse played at Northern Iowa, then started his coaching career there as an assistant. He wound up becoming a head coach at Grand View University when he was just 23. He coached in Belgium and Britain — winning a pair of British Basketball League titles as a coach in Birmingham in 1996 and London in 2000 — then got a couple of titles in what is now called the G League.
The second G League crown with Houston’s team got Nurse noticed, with the Raptors calling because they wanted to talk to him about offence. They ended up hiring him as an assistant, and he’d been with Toronto ever since.
The Raptors finished 41-41 this season before losing at home to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in round of the postseason.
Sixers president Daryl Morey continues to build the team around his old Houston Rockets connections. Besides Harden — and others — Nurse coached Houston’s G League-affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers for two seasons while Morey was in charge. Nurse won the G-League title in 2013 before moving on to a successful NBA career. He also won the 2020 NBA Coach of the Year award.