Nick Nurse and five members of the Toronto Raptors coaching staff were sidelined last Friday due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. But assistant coach Sergio Scariolo proved he was more than ready to step up, guiding the Raptors to a comfortable 122-111 victory over the Houston Rockets.
In addition to his role as an assistant coach during the Raptors 2019 NBA Championship, Scariolo has also experienced much success as the head coach of the Spanish national team. Scariolo is one of the many outstanding coaches in Nurse’s deep group of assistant coaches.
A little over a week ago, former Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch was hired as the new head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves after they parted ways with Ryan Saunders.
Finch is now the second assistant coach under Nurse to be hired as a head coach in the NBA in less than a year. Nate Bjorkgren was named head coach of the Indiana Pacers during the offseason. In addition to being Nurse’s right-hand man in Toronto, Nurse and Bjorkgren also have a long history together.
Sacriolo’s impressive showing against the Rockets shows Finch may not be the last coach to be hired as a head coach from Nurse’s coaching tree.
Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin has also taken over for Nurse at times and interviewed for the Memphis Grizzlies head coaching vacancy in 2019 before they hired Taylor Jenkins. Former NBA All-Star and Canadian Jamaal Magloire has been an assistant coach for the Raptors for quite some time and he continues to work his way up the Raptors coaching ladder.
The Raptors 905 G-League team has also given many coaches like Nurse himself the opportunity to coach in the NBA. Patrick Mutombo was an assistant coach with the Raptors for roughly four years and he is now getting a chance in a lead role as the head coach of the Raptors 905.
This year the 905 have allowed assistants — such as Brittni Donaldson and John Bennett — to scout and provide the full game plan for games. It’s just another way the Raptors organization has committed to helping build future head coaches
Additionally, former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse is now the head coach of Vanderbilt University’s men’s team after spending two years with the 905. In that time, he won a G League championship and G League Coach of the Year award before being hired as an assistant with the Grizzlies.
Early Popovich comparisons
The way Nurse is elevating the coaches around him has brought up comparisons to San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich. Known as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA, Popovich has helped countless assistant coaches get their chance at a head coaching role.
James Borrego of the Charlotte Hornets, Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns and Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks were all assistant coaches under Popovich in San Antonio, and are currently serving in head coaching roles. Similarly to the Raptors process, Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz and the Grizzlies’ Taylor Jenkins both had stints as head coach of the Spurs G League affiliate, the Austin Toros.
Nurse may be raising his eyebrows at the Popovich comparisons for now, but in just his third year as a head coach, it’s clear that teams around the league are looking to mimic his coaching style.