clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nick Nurse did the impossible once. The Sixers are betting he can do it again

Nick Nurse was able to capture the Raptors first championship in franchise history. Now he’s tasked with ending a 40-year drought with the Sixers.

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The Sixers were bounced from the second round and Doc Rivers was relieved of his duties as head coach. The vacancy opened the doors to bring in a familiar face who has some history with the team from his time with the Toronto Raptors.

The hiring of Nick Nurse will be met with equal parts optimism and skepticism. The Philly faithful are exhausted after enduring a time when the Eagles, Phillies and Union lost in the championship round and the 76ers fell to Boston in the semi-finals, which has become a reoccurring nightmare.

“You guys [media] have mentioned the second round to me twice already,,” Nurse said at his introductory presser Thursday, “and we’re going to hit that head on. We know we’re judged on how we play in the playoffs.”

He elaborated further.

“I would imagine from day one we’re going to talk about that and we’re going to try to attack that,” he said. “We’re going to have to face it, and rise above it...that’s the mentality part that we are going to have to take.”

Everyone from the ownership group and front office staff to the players and fanbase are looking for a big shift which will hopefully lead to playoff success and ultimately an NBA title.

The success of both Nurse as coach and the overall betterment of the team will be two-fold. Nurse and his staff will need to make a shift in the culture of the franchise and personnel. Philadelphia is a perennial 50-plus win team who fails to make an impact when the stakes are the highest.

Accountability will be a factor, as well as the philosophy of winning basketball that will have to be implemented early and often. The game has evolved, however, a lot of aspects within the fundamentals have remained the same. Team defense/rebounding, passing on offense, and working together as one is the essence of the organizations who have hoisted the trophy over the decades.

Nurse will have to structure an offense with the league MVP as a front-court force, playing much closer to the basket than he has under Brett Brown or Doc Rivers. This is a necessary step toward shifting the mindset of the team and the nucleus of an inside-out approach to the win column.

Nurse replaced the Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, and led Toronto to the 2019 NBA Finals, and they outlasted the Warriors 4-2 in convincing fashion. He also earned Coach of the Year honors in 2020.

“It’s similar to Toronto a little bit,” Nurse said of arriving in Philly with expectations.

The other piece of the puzzle is how James Harden will fit into an offense that could potentially be based upon getting the ball into the post, as opposed to being a team that revolves around Embiid setting the tone from the top of the key or beyond.

Coach Nurse had good counsel alongside him during his time with the Raptors. First things first, he hired Phil Handy, who is arguably one of the best player development coaches in the business, and he also appointed local basketball product, Mark Tyndale, who starred at Simon Gratz H.S. and played for John Chaney at Temple University.

Through these moves, Nurse was able to bridge the gap from head coach to the players, and he also had the right people who could nurture and build their younger guys like Pascal Siakam. All in all, once Kawhi Leonard was traded from San Antonio, the probability of winning improved dramatically.

The 76ers’ head coaching job is a pressure cooker and the expectations for the franchise to become a real contender are beyond comprehension. The good news is that Nurse has a solid relationship with Daryl Morey, and the roster as it stands is still good enough to be one of the better teams in the conference.

This is a great fit on paper, and things will begin to take form once the draft is over and the coaching staff is in place. From there, the heavy lifting will begin and the saga will continue.

Nick Nurse was able to do the impossible once, and Philadelphia is hoping he can make it happen again, and end the 40-year championship drought.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liberty Ballers Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Philadelphia 76ers news from Liberty Ballers