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May 29, 2023

Sixers reach agreement with Nick Nurse to become next head coach

Nick Nurse, who won a championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, is the new head coach of the Sixers.

The Sixers have reached an agreement with former Raptors coach Nick Nurse to become the next head coach of the team, a source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Monday evening. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news.

Nurse, who compiled a 227-163 record over five years with the Raptors, always felt like the perfect balance of old connections and new ideas among the candidates the Sixers were considering. He spent time as the head coach of the Houston Rockets' G-League affiliate, giving him familiarity with Sixers lead executive Daryl Morey, and he proved to be a willing participant in various franchise-wide experiments at the G-League level. But unlike a candidate in the mold of Mike D'Antoni, Nurse has no clear connection to James Harden, making this seem closer to a "best man for the job" selection for Philadelphia.

That willingness to try new things is part of what allowed Nurse to win a championship with the Raptors in 2019 during his first season as head coach. While Kawhi Leonard's playoff dominance was the driving force behind Toronto's title, Nurse used a long and athletic group in creative ways on defense, upending the (admittedly banged up) Kevin Durant-era Warriors in the NBA Finals with schemes like a box-and-one. Nurse's ingenuity continued after Leonard's departure that summer, with the 2019-20 Raptors racing to a 53-19 record in a COVID-shortened season before falling in the bubble.

The primary question Nurse has to answer as Sixers head coach is what his offense will look like while centered around (at minimum) Joel Embiid, or perhaps around Harden and Embiid if the former returns as a free agent. Nurse's teams struggled in the halfcourt over the last two seasons as his creative talent left for greener pastures. It could very well be a product of circumstance, but Nurse's recent tendency to overtax his stars and rely on them to do the heavy lifting offensively could prove fatal for a team built around Embiid and Harden.

Nurse is also a bit more of a public prodder than former Sixers coach Doc Rivers, someone who is willing to take digs at guys in view of the world if he feels it's the best way to get them moving in the right direction. One could make the argument that is a positive for a team that seemed to lack the requisite fire in the belly at the end of their season in Boston, but we'll see how his personality meshes with the group once he arrives in Philadelphia.

Given their preference to go after an established candidate, rather than an up-and-comer with less pedigree, Nurse felt like the best candidate from the available field, a coach with high-level experience, skills that fit their needs, and interest from other teams with stars of their own. Securing Nurse is a good sign of the way forward for Philly, and we'll see what other major moves could shake up the franchise this offseason.

This story is developing...

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