Toronto Raptors, Team Canada coach Nick Nurse on balancing dual roles

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As the Toronto Raptors season comes to a close, head coach Nick Nurse can begin thinking about the important summer ahead for Team Canada.

Nurse says there have been two meetings over the last two weeks to give updates as the Olympic qualifier in Victoria draws closer to its June 29 start.

“I’m happy to say that we had a call yesterday, we had one maybe 10 days ago and something like 38 of the 40 players were on the Zoom. I think two guys were on planes in Europe or something and couldn’t make it. There was such great participation and all that’s organized by the staff,” Nurse said.

Nurse joined the latest episode of CBC Sports video series North Courts to discuss balancing his Raptors and Team Canada duties, how life changed for him after the 2019 NBA championship and stories from his time as a player-coach in Europe with hosts Vivek Jacob, Meghan McPeak and Jevohn Shepherd.

WATCH | Nurse joins North Courts crew:

NBA Champion Nick Nurse joins Vivek, Meghan, and Jevohn to talk about how he keeps up with all the Canadian talent, his early meetings with the Men’s national team, and how life changed for him after the Raptors championship. 11:25

While Nurse’s focus may be able to shift more to the Canadian side as the Raptors season winds down, he credits the entire Canada Basketball staff for keeping him in the loop on the national team. He says he receives emails every other day with statistics from Canadians across the globe — including in the NBA, college and Europe.

“I watch a lot of NBA games. I do tend to stick around a little bit longer for a game that may not have interest to my Raptor job,” Nurse said. “And I do once in a while throw on a EuroLeague game. Someone would say, ‘Hey, [Canadian guard Kevin] Pangos had a big game last night’ and then I’ll just get my film guys to put in on my TV in the office.”

Compiling a roster for Victoria will be a tall task, both due to the depth in the Canadian system and different permutations depending on who is available to play.

“There’s so many guys and there’s so many situations — injuries and contracts, [NBA] playoffs. Are they still going to be playing?,” Nurse said.

Canada must win the qualifying tournament to book its ticket to Tokyo. While star guard Jamal Murray is unlikely to play due to his recent knee injury, Raptors centre Khem Birch said on Tuesday he would play if healthy.

The coaching staff, on the other hand, came together relatively quickly, with a mix of experience and youth, Canadians and trusted Nurse assistants, and NBA and FIBA knowledge.

Nurse, who led the Raptors to the 2019 championship, says he still hears stories about where people were when the final buzzer sounded.

“I don’t get tired of hearing them. I think it really was a magical moment or run and, well, I was on TV a lot so I guess everybody recognized me,” Nurse said.

Nurse added that 20-minute grocery runs quickly doubled in length due to the added acclaim from the Raptors’ Finals run.

If all goes well in Victoria, and then Tokyo, that fame may only increase by the end of August.