In the past few years, the NBA has held a big party to announce its major awards, but that’s obviously not possible in the time of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, like everything else these days, the honors are being handed out virtually. Early on Saturday afternoon, the league announced Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse received the first honor as 2019-20 NBA Coach of the Year.
Nurse ran away with the award, earning 90 of the 100 first-place votes for a total of 470 total points. Mike Budenholzer (5) of the Milwaukee Bucks, Billy Donovan (4) of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Nate McMillan (1) of the Indiana Pacers were the only other coaches to receive first-place votes. Budenholzer finished second in overall voting, while Donovan was third.
After losing Kawhi Leonard last summer, expectations were understandably lowered for the defending champions, but they picked up right where they left off, going 53-19 in the shortened season. Much of that was due to the leadership of veterans like Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol, as well as the continued emergence of Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. But Nurse also deserved a lot of credit for the way he prepared his team on the defensive end, and kept them on track despite all sorts of injuries. On Saturday, he got it.
Nurse’s coaching journey has taken him all over the world, and he’s spent time coaching both in Belgium and England, where he was named British Basketball League Coach of the Year two times, and worked with the British national team. Upon returning to the United States, Nurse worked in the G League for a number of years, being named G League Coach of the Year in 2011.
Eventually he got his shot in the NBA, joining the Raptors as an assistant coach under Dwane Casey. When the Raptors fired Casey in 2018, they promoted Nurse to the head coaching position, and he’s been an instant success. In his first two years in charge he led the team to their first title in franchise history and now has an NBA Coach of the Year award to go with the other trophies in his case.
Nurse is the only head coach to win a title in both the G League and NBA, and is now also the only one to win Coach of the Year in both the G League and NBA. Following his success with the Raptors, Nurse was also hired as head coach of the Canadian national team.