TORONTO - Nick Nurse has made it clear: he wants to stay in Toronto.
Nurse addressed speculation that he would be leaving the Raptors as head coach on Thursday, a day after Toronto was bounced from the NBA's post-season with a 109-105 loss to the Chicago Bulls in a play-in game.
Media reports had dogged Nurse for weeks, suggesting that a rift had formed between him and team president Masai Ujiri and that with the coach's contract expiring next season he could be fired or he would quit.
But Nurse dismissed any notion of friction with Ujiri on Thursday.
“I think we've got a front office, a president in Masai, who passionately wants to win. We've got a head coach who passionately wants to win,” said Nurse at OVO Centre, the Raptors' training facility. “That's why we've always been on the same page and have a great level of communication.
“Our goal is to win here and that takes some evaluation on all fronts. That's all.”
The 55-year-old Nurse signed a multi-year extension with Toronto on Sept. 15, 2020. The contract came after he led the Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship and earned coach of the year honours the next season.
“I love it here. I love it here and we have built a really strong culture,” said Nurse. “That is what (Ujiri) is doing. That is what (general manager Bobby Webster) is doing. That's what I'm doing.
“We've got to all evaluate how we can get that culture back where we need it and get back to being a playoff team and then getting to a level of winning it all. That's what we want to do.”
Speculation about Nurse's future came to a head on March 31 in Philadelphia when he said in a post-game conference that he would have to think about his future in the off-season. Three days later in Charlotte, Nurse was asked by a reporter about those comments and he gave a terse reply, insisting on only focusing on this season.
Nurse said on Thursday that he was trying to be proactive with his midseason comments.
“The speculation of whether I was going to be back or not that started, I have no idea where that comes from or what I was supposed to do about that,” he said. “I needed to try to get the team or any of the players focused back on the job at hand and try to not have to answer that question every game.
“It started coming one after another after another and I was trying to put it to bed so we could focus on the season.”
The Raptors finished the regular season with a 41-41 record and, after the play-in loss to Chicago, will be considered the Eastern Conference's 10th-place team.
Veteran point guard Fred VanVleet said that Nurse still commands respect in Toronto's locker-room.
“We're all grown-ups in this league and understand everything's a business but coach has got my full support,” said VanVleet, who added he'd be surprised if Nurse wasn't back next season.
“I love playing for him. I've had some of my best years under him, obviously won a championship. I think we've got one of the best staffs in the league.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2023.