Warriors

Nurse joins Kerr in elite company with Coach of the Year win

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Nick Nurse joined Warriors coach Steve Kerr in rare company Saturday, but that could be a bad omen for Nurse's Toronto Raptors.

Nurse was named 2019-20 NBA Coach of the Year on Saturday, winning the award for the first time a year after winning an NBA title, incidentally, against Kerr's Warriors. Kerr's the only other coach this century to win the award in the season following a championship, the NBA on ESPN's Twitter account noted.

Here's where the foreboding forewarning comes in: Kerr won the award for his work during the Warriors' 73-9 season in 2015-16. Fifty-five days after he did, Golden State failed to repeat as champions by blowing a three-games-to-one NBA Finals lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Even if Nurse and the Raptors followed Kerr and the Warriors' footsteps into a Finals collapse four years later, the similarities would just about end with both teams being led by award-winning coaches. In fact, Nurse probably would be thrilled just to get back to the Finals.

Kerr's award was a testament to Golden State's historic dominance, whereas Nurse's win reflects Toronto's remarkable relevance.

The Raptors finished second in the Eastern Conference and with the NBA's second-best record for the second straight season, despite losing Finals MVP and Coliseum Arena conqueror Kawhi Leonard in free agency to the Los Angeles Clippers. Toronto had a better winning percentage (.736) during the NBA's coronavirus-pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 season than with Leonard leading the way in 2018-19 (.707).

Staying competitive after losing a superstar would've made Nurse a worthy winner. Staying elite in Leonard's absence made Nurse a shoo-in, and the final vote totals reflected that.

 

Winning 90 percent of the first-place votes, as Nurse did, still might undersell the Raptors' achievements this season.

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Kerr and Nurse were easy choices for Coach of the Year in the years they won the award, mostly because their teams were arguably more impressive than when they won championships.

But their teams couldn't have done it more differently.