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Nick Nurse fired as Raptors coach after team misses playoffs

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07: Head coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors looks on during the first quarter of the game between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on April 07, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

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After a disappointing season where a talented Raptors roster never clicked and then couldn’t climb out of the play-in, Toronto has fired Nick Nurse, the coach that led them to their only title, the team announced Friday.

This was not a surprise, even Nurse said he needed to re-evaluate his situation after this season.

“The decision to make a change like this is never arrived at easily or taken lightly, especially when it comes to a person who has been an integral part of this franchise’s most historic accomplishments, and who has been a steady leader through some of our team’s most challenging times. As we reflect on Nick’s many successes, we thank him and his family, and wish them the best in future,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement.

“This is an opportunity for us to reset, to refocus, to put into place the personnel and the players who will help us reach our goal of winning our next championship.”

Nurse had been an assistant with Dwane Casey in Toronto since 2013 and took over as head coach five years later, leading the Raptors to their 2019 championship with Kawhi Leonard. Along the way, Nurse developed a reputation as one of the more creative, out-of-the-box thinkers in the game.

There is more than enough blame to go around for what went wrong in Toronto this season, but Ujiri and the front office have to take their share as well (something he hints at in his statement). While there is All-NBA level talent in a player such as Pascal Siakam, there is not enough shooting and it took until the trade deadline to get a true center on the roster (Jakob Poeltl) who could anchor the team on both ends.

There are tough decisions to make this summer with Fred VanVleet, Poeltl and Gary Trent being free agents and Siakam being extension eligible.

It didn’t take long before former Celtics coach Ime Udoka was linked to the job, with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN suggesting Udoka is a “serious candidate” for the job. Udoka has ties to Ujiri but was suspended by the Celtics after taking them to the NBA Finals a season ago due to multiple violations of team rules, including an improper relationship with a team staff member.

The Houston Rockets will target Nurse for their open head coaching job, reports Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report/TNT.