TORONTO—A dozen years ago, Nick Nurse walked into Jerry Crawford's law office and pitched his longtime friend an idea.
“He said, 'Have you heard about this 'D' League?'” Crawford recalled of that momentous meeting.
“I said 'Yes.' He said, 'I think we should do it here in Des Moines,' and I said, 'I think you're right.'”
The 50-year-old Nurse has agreed to become the next coach of the Toronto Raptors, the culmination of a circuitous coaching journey that enjoyed a pivotal moment in Des Moines.
Crawford founded the Iowa Energy (now the Iowa Wolves) in 2007. He, of course, named Nurse his first head coach.
“When people say that folks paid their dues to become head coaches in the NBA, rarely do they pay their dues to the extent that they had to start a team to be able to coach in order to get started on that pathway,” Crawford noted.
“That's what Nick did.”
Nurse's hiring comes a month after the Raptors fired Dwane Casey after Toronto was swept out of the second round of this year's playoffs by Cleveland.
Raptors' president Masai Ujiri reportedly had narrowed his search down to Nurse and San Antonio assistant coach Ettore Messina.
Mike Budenholzer, former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, also was seen as an early front-runner before being hired by Milwaukee.
Nurse's promotion suggests some continuity in style coming off a franchise-best 59-win season and the team's first No. 1 seed.
Nurse has been credited with the Raptors' major offensive makeover that saw them jump to third in the league offensively overall, and from 22nd to third in three-pointers.
Crawford said Nurse is a coach who relates well to players, crediting him with an ability to never let a couple of losses turn into a skid.
“He could go into the locker-room, the players could relate to him, they respected him, and he could get their attention in a way that allowed him to make sure bad things didn't happen,” Crawford noted.
“That's one thing that's unique about him," he remarked. "He's incredibly calm, he doesn't panic, he makes good decisions under pressure.”
The Raptors decision comes one day after Casey was hired by the Detroit Pistons as their new coach.