Nick Nurse’s connection to Phil Jackson shaped the franchise

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Nick Nurse will forever go down in history as the man who coached the Toronto Raptors to an unprecedented title run in 2019 — the first in the team’s franchise history.

Recently, the 52-year-old did a lengthy interview with Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Nurse admitted that legendary coach Phil Jackson — who himself is a record-holding 11-time NBA champion coach — played a pivotal role in shaping his coaching philosophy, and in a way, also paved the way for Toronto’s success.

“I mean, really he was a guy I certainly looked up to and learned a lot from even though he didn’t know it,” says Nurse of Jackson. “I studied his substitutions, his timeouts, his late-game stuff, his demeanor, his belief in having a system, his ability to give players freedom, his belief in pressure defense. There’s a lot of things there.”

Nurse then went on to discuss how his current Raptors side feels like a replica of what Jackson built with the Chicago Bulls some three decades ago.

“It’s eerily similar. Right? You could almost say Pascal (Siakam)’s (Scottie) Pippen, and I guess that the need to run it with a little better structure, a little better execution to keep the offence to where you’re accustomed to it being on the whole,” says Nurse. “You’ve heard a lot of those guys in the Last Dance talk about it, I think that, again, five guys being integral parts of the offence like we like to run it now — ours is less of a triangle and more of a big, spaced out square — but it got better over the year and then they’re in a situation where now there’s more opportunities for them.”

Nurse even cited Jackson’s famed triangle offense, which is apparently something that Nurse is also trying to develop with the Raptors. Toronto may have lost their superstar in Kawhi Leonard last summer, but it seems that with a good system in place and a genius of a basketball mind at the helm, this team will still be a legitimate contender for years to come.

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