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Toronto Raptors fire coach Nick Nurse, evaluating the impact on NBA coaching carousel

The Toronto Raptors have fired head coach Nick Nurse, parting ways with the 2019 NBA Coach of the Year and the figure who helped lead the team to an NBA championship.

After winning the 2019 NBA Finals, Toronto signed Nurse to a multi-year extension in 2022 that made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the NBA. The team stuck by him after a difficult 2020-’21 season, when they finished with a 27-45 record. Toronto rebounded the following season with 48 wins, but they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

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Nurse remained at the helm as the Raptors built their roster around Scottie Barnes, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. However, they finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 41-41 record then were eliminated by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Following a third consecutive season by the team, Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri made the decision Thursday to move on from Nurse after five seasons.

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Who will be the next Toronto Raptors coach?

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is expected to be a serious candidate to become the next Raptors’ coach. Udoka, who was dismissed by Boston following his scandal in 2022.

Related: Ime Udoka receiving significant interest from NBA teams

The 45-year-old coach was a well-respected NBA assistant before the Celtics hired him as their head coach in 2021. He previously worked alongside Gregg Popovich (2012-’19) with the San Antonio Spurs and Brett Brown (2019-’20).

Udoka is one of the most popular NBA coaching candidates in 2023 and has already received consideration for previous vacancies. The Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks both heavily weighed hiring Udoka during the 2022-’23 NBA regular season but went in other directions after reportedly receiving negative feedback.

The Raptors’ gig is one of the best available in the NBA right now, offering an opportunity to work under Ujiri and coach both Barnes and Siakam.

Nick Nurse emerging as Houston Rockets coaching candidate

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Toronto Raptors
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

According to NBA insider Chris Haynes, the Houston Rockets are expected to immediately pursue Nurse following his dismissal. He is viewed around the league as one of the top NBA coaching candidates available with significant interest expected.

The Rockets, holding one of the highest 2023 NBA Draft lottery odds, are looking for an experienced head coach. As NBA insider Keith Smith points out, Houston’s interest in Nurse would signal the organization is ready to be more aggressive and end its rebuild.

It could be a very appealing opportunity for Nurse, with Houston likely willing to offer a lucrative multi-year contract. Job security and the opportunity to coach Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr, Alperen Senguin and potentially either Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson could be extremely appealing as Nurse evaluates his options.

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