Report: Sixers Hire Nick Nurse as New Head Coach

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers‘ head coaching search lasted just two weeks. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Monday evening the Sixers are hiring Nick Nurse to be their next head coach.

The 55-year-old was the head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2018-2023, compiling a 227-163 record over that five-year stretch. During that time, the Raptors compiled three playoff appearances, two Atlantic Division titles, an Eastern Conference title and an NBA Championship. He was also named NBA Coach of the Year for the 2019-20 season in which the Raptors finished 53-19.

Nurse is clearly a big get for the Sixers organization. He was reportedly a prominent candidate in the head coaching search for the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns and the Sixers. According to Wojnarowski’s report, a desire to coach MVP Joel Embiid and his history with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey played key roles in Nurse choosing the Sixers.

The Nurse-Morey relationship dates back to their time together in the Houston Rockets organization. Morey was the general manager of the Rockets while Nurse coached their G League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Multiple reports over the last few days indicated Nurse’s prior relationship with Morey was going to play a role in enticing him to come to Philadelphia.

Nurse is known for being a good defensive mind who is willing to make adjustments based off his team’s roster. The Raptors excelled defensively during Nurse’s tenure there. They routinely finished inside the top-10 in both steals per game and points allowed per game. Nurse helped craft one of the better defensive strategies against Embiid in recent years. His defensive aggressiveness and willingness to experiment are both things that should be welcomed in Philadelphia.

The biggest question Nurse will have to answer in Philadelphia will be how he chooses to run the offense around Embiid (and potentially James Harden if he returns). Toronto’s halfcourt offense struggled mightily in recent years. This could have been due to a combination of poor personnel, but the lack of creativity in Nurse’s offensive scheme did not help things.

Another issue Nurse has had is overtaxing his star players. Last season, Pascal Siakam led the league in minutes for the second consecutive season. Fred VanVleet played the fifth most minutes. This comes as a result of Nurse’s tendency to not put a lot of trust in his younger players. He often puts them on a short leash while not giving them the room to make many mistakes. Sixers fans experienced this some with Paul Reed over the last few years. Doc Rivers spent much of the past two seasons playing washed up veterans over Reed before finally adjusting and trusting Reed late last season.

The Raptors did not have much depth over the last two seasons, which could have played a part in Nurse’s over-reliance on his star players. The Sixers’ roster contains some solid depth, including the young trio of Reed, Jalen McDaniels (assuming both Reed and McDaniels get re-signed) and Jaden Springer. Each of those players are athletic while playing a defense-first style, perfectly fitting Nurse’s defensive scheme. It will be interesting to see how much trust Nurse puts in them throughout next season.

Overall, Nurse appears on the surface to be a good hire for the Sixers. He has experience coaching a championship team and will bring some fresh ideas to rejuvenate the Sixers schematically. He also will bring some much needed fire and emotion to a Sixers team that seemingly lacked that last season. Nurse should be able to come in and improve what was already a strong Sixers defense. How he handles the offense is clearly the biggest question Nurse will have to answer moving forward.

Despite what is on paper a good hire, the Sixers still have a lot of questions looming over the remainder of their offseason. Will Harden stay or go? What other things will Morey do to tweak and improve the roster? Filling the head coaching position with a strong hire like Nurse is a good start. However, there is certainly more work to do to help the Sixers get over their second-round woes.