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May 19, 2023

Report: Nick Nurse to meet with Sixers about head coaching job

The Sixers are reportedly meeting with former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse about their own head-coaching vacancy.

With Doc Rivers fired, the Sixers are on the hunt for a new head coach. 

While there are a host of primary candidates out there, former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse must be appealing for the franchise, as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported Thursday that the team will meet with Nurse "this week" to discuss the head-coaching vacancy. 

Looking at the pros and cons of six different candidates who are likely on the Sixers' radar, our Sixers beat writer Kyle Neubeck discussed Nurse's fit in Philadelphia earlier this week, writing:

What does he bring to the table? A reputation as an outside-the-box thinker. Nurse took the long road to NBA success, with stops in England, Belgium, the USBL, and the G-League before eventually rising to his position with the Toronto Raptors. Nurse's first year as head coach of the Raptors ended in the ultimate success, with several unorthodox strategies (including a box-and-one against Steph Curry) helping to derail the Warriors dynasty at its peak. Even after losing Kawhi Leonard, Nurse managed to keep the Raptors humming during a COVID-shortened season in 2019-20, pushing Toronto to a 53-19 record with concepts that many teams have outright abandoned at the NBA level, like periodic full-court pressing.

At their best, the Raptors were an example of how a team could maximize their defensive potential by simply using a lot of different styles and schemes. Nurse was willing to try just about anything to meet the moment, even in cases where the team hadn't practiced a particular look all that often. And that sort of approach would be a welcome splash of chaos on a team that needs a way to throw teams off beyond just playing 2-3 zone.

He's also got some history with Morey, for whatever that's worth, with Nurse a graduate of Houston's G-League team that essentially operated as a science experiment for the big club. I suspect that Nurse and Morey would be a pretty seamless fit as envelope pushers.

What are the potential issues? Is Nurse the whiz kid he looked like when he had apex Kawhi Leonard on his team, or Toronto Tom Thibodeau? Blame the roster he's had available to him if you choose, but it has been Nurse's choice to play his best players for heavy minutes in the regular season, burying certain players and overtaxing his stars. That last part sounds like a particularly dangerous choice for a team with Embiid and (in theory) Harden, who need careful workload consideration now and moving forward.

If Nurse's problems were all about a talent drain in Toronto, you could end up stealing a super-valuable coach with the boldness to shake up games on a moment-to-moment basis. But for as chaotic as the Raptors' defense has been at times, the Raptors' offense has been out of ideas for two seasons running, unable to score in the halfcourt on a consistent basis. It was a big reason no one took them seriously (the Sixers included) when these teams met in the playoffs two years ago and a reason they missed out entirely this year.

There's also the fact that Embiid has publicly made fun of Nurse before, but he has gotten along great with former enemy Dan Burke, so I don't think that should be a huge problem.

Nurse would be a top-two candidate to me currently, right there with since-dismissed Suns coach Monty Williams. I'd like to know, however, how Joel Embiid and James Harden feel about these fellas. 

More updates on the Sixers' coaching search to come...

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