Raptors coach Nick Nurse to lead Canada’s men’s national team at FIBA World Cup

Fresh off coaching the Toronto Raptors to the NBA championship, Nick Nurse will now try to lead Canada’s men’s national team into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Nurse was announced as the new head coach of the men’s squad by Canada Basketball on Monday morning and comes less than two weeks after the 51-year-old and his team set off a national celebration when they defeated the Golden State Warriors to win the franchise’s first NBA championship.

“I’m looking forward to working with this talented group of young players, and to seeing what we can do on the competitive global basketball stage,” Nurse said in a statement. “I love the international game. I also see this as a real chance for me to learn from the world’s best, and for us to represent Canada with pride and distinction.”

Canada Basketball says Nurse’s contract runs through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The World Cup is the main qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and Canada Basketball had been searching for a senior men’s head coach for months. Long-term head coach Jay Triano withdrew his name from the ongoing search for “personal reasons” in March.

Expectations will be high for Canada’s men’s team. Nurse takes the reins of a national program that boasts the best collection of Canadian talent ever. Simply selecting the team will be a tough task, but a nice problem to have. About a dozen NBA players are in the mix, including guards Jamal Murray (Denver), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (L.A. Clippers), and Cory Joseph (Indiana), and forwards Kelly Olynyk (Miami) and Tristan Thompson (Cleveland), along with former Duke star R.J. Barrett, recently selected third overall by the New York Knicks in the NBA draft.

Rowan Barrett, general manager of the team, said Nurse’s knowledge of the country’s young stars was key.

“Nick fits our gold medal profile as he is a proven leader with extensive experience coaching FIBA, NBA and other professional leagues around the world,” Barrett, the father of R.J., said in a statement. “His coaching pedigree shows his ability to win at some of the highest levels and he has a tremendous understanding of the FIBA game and our Canadian NBA players.”

Canada has been drawn into a tough Group H with No. 6-ranked Lithuania, No. 11 Australia and 37th-ranked Senegal at the World Cup, which tips off Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 in China. The Canadians must finish top two to advance. The tournament’s top seven teams earn automatic Olympic berths. Canada’s men’s team hasn’t made an Olympic appearance since 2000 in Sydney, where Triano coached a squad led by Steve Nash to a 5-2 record and seventh-place finish.

Canada hasn’t had a team in the World Cup since a winless 22nd-place finish in 2010 in Turkey.

Nurse was the lead assistant under head coach Chris Finch for host Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics in London.

He spent 11 seasons coaching in Europe, mostly in the British Basketball League. The Iowan was named head coach of the Iowa Energy of the G League in 2007. His first NBA job was with the Raptors, joining Casey as an assistant in 2013.

In addition, Gordie Herbert, who last coached Team Canada to a pair of victories during the second window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers, has been named associate head coach and will be a member of Nurses’ staff at the upcoming World Cup. Herbert will also coach Canada at the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Qualifiers which are set to begin in November.

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