Transcript: Nick Nurse: From Journeyman to NBA Champion | Nov 13, 2020

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a gray blazer over a white shirt, and two golden necklaces.

A caption on screen reads "From journeyman to NBA champion. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON AS HEAD COACH OF THE TORONTO RAPTORS, NICK NURSE BROUGHT HOME A CHAMPIONSHIP. IT WASN'T A FLUKE OR BEGINNER'S LUCK. IT WAS THE CULMINATION OF YEARS OF WORK, PAYING HIS DUES AND YES, A BIT OF INSPIRATION FROM HIS SECOND LOVE, JAZZ. THAT PATH OFFERS MANY LESSONS AND HE DETAILS IT IN HIS NEW BOOK, "RAPTURE: FIFTEEN TEAMS, FOUR COUNTRIES, ONE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP, AND HOW TO FIND A WAY TO WIN... DAMN NEAR ANYWHERE." AND IT BRINGS THE TORONTO RAPTORS' NICK NURSE TO OUR VIRTUAL STUDIO TONIGHT.

Nick is in his fifties, with short, receding blond hair and a trimmed goatee. He's wearing glasses and a black sweater.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover is red, featuring a picture of Nick giving instructions during a game.

Nam continues HI, NICK.

Nick says HI. HOW ARE YOU.

Nam says THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING WITH US. YOU SAW BEFORE THE INTRO, I DID A LITTLE AH! SO EXCITED TO HAVE YOU ON THE SHOW.

Nick says THAT'S GREAT. I'M EXCITED TO BE HERE. I'LL GO AH!

Nam says I'LL KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL. YOU GREW UP IN CAROL, IOWA. YOU EXCELLED IN BASEBALL AND FOOTBALL. YOU ALSO STILL HOLD YOUR HIGH SCHOOL'S RECORD FOR POLE VAULTING. WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO COMMIT TO BASKETBALL?

The caption changes to "Nick Nurse. Toronto Raptors."
Then, it changes again to "The early years."

Nick says PROBABLY AFTER OUR HIGH SCHOOL TEAM WON THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. THAT KIND OF NUDGED ME IN THE DIRECTION OF BASKETBALL. I WAS JUST KIND OF... I MEAN, I WAS OKAY. I PLAYED ALL THE SPORTS AND HAD SOME CHANCES TO PLAY FOOTBALL. I HAD SOME CHANCES TO PLAY BASEBALL. I HAD SOME CHANCES TO PLAY BASKETBALL. AND REALLY DIDN'T KNOW WHICH ONE. BUT THEN JUST KIND OF FELL INTO THE BASKETBALL, WAS GIVEN A SCHOLARSHIP AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA, AND I PUT ALL THE OTHER SPORTS AWAY BECAUSE I FIGURED I BETTER TRY TO KEEP THE SCHOLARSHIP FOR THE FOUR YEARS I WAS GOING TO BE THERE.

Nam says WHAT WAS IT ABOUT BASKETBALL THAT JUST GOT UNDER YOUR SKIN?

The caption changes to "Nick Nurse. Author, 'Rapture.'"

Nick says I THINK IT'S JUST A PERSONAL LEVEL OF TOUCH WITH THE FANS. YOU KNOW, I THINK THEY'RE SO CLOSE. YOU'RE SO VISIBLE ON THE COURT AS A BASKETBALL PLAYER, THE INTENSITY OF THE FANS BEING THERE. I THINK THAT'S HARD TO... HARD TO MEASURE IN THE OTHER SPORTS BECAUSE IT'S, AGAIN, SUCH A VIBRANT, ELECTRIC SPORT.

Nam says SO ON THE DAY THAT YOU WERE NAMED COACH OF THE RAPTORS, IN YOUR BOOK YOU WRITE THAT YOU CALLED SOMEONE WHO YOU SAY IS, QUOTE, ONE OF THE GREATEST COACHES ALMOST NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF. WHO WAS DARRELL MUDRA AND WHAT ROLE HAS HE PLAYED IN HOW YOU COACH?

A black and white portrait picture shows a clean-shaven man in his forties, with short wavy dark hair.

Nick says YEAH, HIS NAME IS DR. VICTORY, WHICH IS A REALLY GOOD NAME FOR A COACH. HE WAS ACTUALLY THE FOOTBALL COACH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA WHERE I WAS GOING TO SCHOOL. HE TAUGHT A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY CLASS THERE AT THE UNIVERSITY. HE COACHED FROM THE PRESS BOX, AND THAT WAS HIS WAY OF GIVING HIS COACHES AND PLAYERS THE CHANCE TO, YOU KNOW, KIND OF DO THEIR THING, LET THE PLAYERS PLAY, LET THE COACHES COACH, AND THAT INTRIGUED ME. AND THAT'S WHAT HE TAUGHT. HE WAS YEARS AND YEARS AHEAD OF HIS TIME AND HE WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL AND A VERY INTERESTING MAN.

Nam says YOU WRITE IN THE BOOK THAT YOU COULDN'T EXACTLY DO THAT NOW. YOU COULDN'T WALK ONTO THE COURT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME, WALK TO THE PRESS BOX AND BE LIKE, GUYS, HAVE A GOOD GAME. IN THE BOOK YOU WRITE THAT A BIG PART OF YOUR JOB IS TO, QUOTE, RECOGNIZE MY PLAYERS' SELFISH GOALS? WHY? THAT COUNTERS WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT TEAM WORK, THAT THERE'S NO "I." IN TEAM.

Nick says THAT'S BEING HONEST. THAT'S KIND OF LAYING IT OUT THERE ON THE LINE. I THINK MOST PEOPLE TALK ABOUT SACRIFICE, EVERYTHING FOR THE TEAM AND IT'S ALL TEAM, TEAM, TEAM, TEAM, TEAM. WHICH, IN A SENSE, IS TRUE. BUT I THINK IN REALITY, THESE GUYS ARE MAKING A LIVING, RIGHT? WE WANT TO INCREASE THEIR VALUE IN THE MARKETPLACE. IF THEY HAVE GOALS TO BE ALL-STARS OR TO SECURE A 5-YEAR CONTRACT OR, I DON'T KNOW, MAYBE IT'S TO MAKE THE TEAM. YOU KNOW, WHATEVER IT IS THAT WE WANT TO HELP THEM REACH THEIR OWN PERSONAL GOALS. WE WORK REALLY CLOSELY ON DEVELOPING THEM AS PLAYERS AND AS PEOPLE. AND THEN THEY KIND OF WORK ON... HELP US WORK ON OUR GOAL, WHICH IS TO WIN LOTS BECAUSE THAT'S HOW WE'RE JUDGED IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS.

Nam says AND YOU ALSO RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ALSO HAVE YOUR OWN PERSONAL GOALS. SO HOW DO YOU GET EVERYBODY ON THE TEAM TO BUY IN TO WHAT IT IS THAT YOU'RE TRYING TO PROMOTE ON THE COURT?

A colour picture shows a team posing for a picture with a golden trophy.

Nick says WELL, MY PERSONAL GOALS ARE LINKED REALLY CLOSELY WITH WINNING AND WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS, RIGHT? I THINK THAT'S KIND OF WHAT I DO, WHY I DO WHAT I DO AND THAT'S WHAT GETS ME OUT OF BED EVERY DAY, AND THAT'S A VISION THAT I TRY TO CREATE AND THAT'S HOW IT STARTS. YOU KNOW, DAY ONE OF EACH SEASON, WE TRY TO LAY OUT OUR VISION FOR, CAN WE BE CHAMPIONS AND USUALLY THE ANSWER IS YES. AND THEN HOW ARE WE GOING TO GO ABOUT IT. WE FORMULATE A PLAN THAT LINKS TO OUR VISIONS AND OUR GOALS AND THEN WE GET TO WORK. AND THAT'S WHAT I DO EVERY DAY.

Nam says AND SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SEE YOUR CAREER AND BE LIKE, OH, IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON, HE'S GOTTEN THIS NBA CHAMPIONSHIP. BUT ACTUALLY AT THE AGE OF 20, YOU MANAGED TO SCOUT YOURSELF TO A TEAM IN ENGLAND AND IN THE BOOK YOU WRITE THAT YOU WEREN'T PART OF WHAT IS CALLED A COACHING TREE. SO YOU PUT TOGETHER A PACKAGE WITH YOUR RESUME, COVER LETTER AND NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS ABOUT YOUR PLAYING CAREER. AND IT WORKED. YOU RECEIVED AN OFFER TO PLAY POINT GUARD. BUT YOU WERE ALSO ASKED TO BE POINT GUARD/COACH, YOU HAD TO COACH THE TEAM AS WELL, WHICH IS UNCONVENTIONAL, BUT YOU WERE ON YOUR WAY. LOOKING BACK, YOU CREATED THE PATH THAT YOU'RE ON TODAY. DO YOU EVER WONDER WHERE YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN HAD YOU NOT BET ON YOURSELF?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Nick says SOMETIMES I DO. YOU KNOW, THERE'S ALSO A SECTION OF THE BOOK WHERE I TALK ABOUT I WAS LIKE 26 OR 27 AND I DIDN'T KNOW IF I WAS ANY GOOD AT COACHING AND WROTE DOWN A FEW THINGS ELSE I DECIDED MAYBE I WOULD DO OTHER THAN COACHING. THEY LOOKED REALLY BAD TO ME SO I THOUGHT I BETTER START STUDYING HARDER ON HOW TO BECOME A BETTER COACH. BUT, YOU KNOW, I THINK SENDING OUT ALL THOSE PACKAGES AND LETTERS, THAT IS KIND OF BETTING ON YOURSELF, RIGHT, AND HOPING THAT SOMEONE IS GOING TO RETURN ONE OF THOSE. THIS IS BACK BEFORE THE INTERNET WHERE YOU REALLY ACTUALLY HAD TO GO SEND THEM OUT AND PUT AN AIR MAIL STAMP ON THERE AND SEND OUT A BIG MANILA ENVELOPE WITH YOUR RESUME AND CV AND I WANT TO PLAY OVERSEAS. THE GUY DARBY WHO HIRED ME SAID WHY DON'T YOU PLAY AND COACH? I SAID SOUNDS GOOD. AND I WAS ON A PLANE ABOUT FOUR DAYS LATER AND I WAS WITH DARBY GETTING READY TO GO.

Nam says YOU MAKE IT SOUND EASY BUT AT THE TIME YOU WEREN'T EVEN OLD ENOUGH TO DRIVE YOUR PLAYERS AROUND SO SOMEBODY ELSE HAD TO DRIVE.

Nick says YEAH.

Nam says DURING THAT PERIOD OF TIME, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF?

Nick says WELL, I THINK THERE WAS A BIG PART OF ME THAT STILL WANTED TO SEE HOW GOOD A PLAYER I COULD BECOME. YOU KNOW, IT'S LIKE MY FOUR YEARS AT UNIVERSITY FINISHED AND IT'S LIKE, YOU KNOW, YOU'RE DONE, AND THAT'S KIND OF WHAT PUSHED ME TO AN EVEN FURTHER LOVE OF THE GAME. I'VE NOW PUT MY WHOLE LIFE AND SOUL INTO THIS SPORT AND YOU'RE TELLING ME I CAN'T PLAY IT ANYMORE. THERE WAS PART OF ME THAT WANTED TO CONTINUE PLAYING AND SEE IF I COULD GET BETTER AND BETTER, YOU KNOW, JUST TO SEE HOW GOOD I COULD GET, AND ALWAYS... AND THEN I STARTED THINKING, HEY, I LOVE THIS GAME, MAN. I WANT TO STAY AROUND IT. LET'S SEE IF I CAN STAY EMPLOYED AS A COACH AND LUCKY HERE WE ARE 30 YEARS LATER, STILL EMPLOYED AS A COACH.

Nam says YOUR PATH TO THE NBA HAS BEEN A WINDING ONE. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON THAT YOU LEARNED FROM COACHING IN EUROPE AND IN THE D-LEAGUE THAT HAS INFORMED YOUR COACHING IN THE NBA?

Nick says WELL, I THINK THAT TAKING A CHANCE AT WANTING TO BE A HEAD COACH AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE, I HAD ALL THESE IDEAS IN MY HEAD AND I JUST WANTED TO TRY THEM. AND I HAD TO KNOW IF MY IDEAS THAT WERE SPINNING AROUND IN MY HEAD WERE RIGHT OR WRONG, AND THAT GAVE ME GREAT EXPERIENCE. I THINK LEADING A TEAM, BEING UP IN FRONT OF THE TEAM, MAKING THE DECISIONS ON WHO PLAYS, WHO SUBSTITUTES IN, YOU KNOW, CALLING THE TIME-OUTS, DRAWING IN THE GAME PLAYS, GETTING GUYS TO BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES, DEVELOPING CHEMISTRY, DEFINING ROLES, ALL THOSE THINGS THAT A HEAD COACH NEEDS TO DO I WAS DOING OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN FROM THE AGE OF 23 ON. YOU KNOW, NOBODY KNEW OR HEARD OF ME WHEN I BECAME THE RAPTORS' HEAD COACH BUT I HAD ALREADY BEEN A HEAD COACH FOR OVER 20 YEARS IN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL.

Nam says YOU KNOW, SHORTLY AFTER YOU BECAME THE RAPTORS' HEAD COACH, YOU VISITED LEGENDARY COACH PHIL JACKSON, WHO EVERYBODY KNOWS, IN MONTANA. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR TRIP?

A picture shows a man in his forties with short curly brown hair and a prominent mustache making a triangle with his two index fingers and two thumbs during a game.

Nick says WELL, IT WAS JUST TRY TO LEARN ANYTHING, RIGHT? JUST TRY TO LEARN ANYTHING AND HE'S WON 11 CHAMPIONSHIPS. THERE HE IS WITH... TELLING HIM TO RUN THE TRIANGLE OFFENCE WHICH I WAS EMULATING, I RAN THAT FOR NINE YEARS COACHING IN ENGLAND AND I WAS RUNNING THE BULLS' TAPES AND RUNNING THE TRIANGLE OFFENCE. BUT WHAT I WAS ALSO LEARNING, SINCE I WAS WATCHING THOSE GAMES OVER AND OVER, I LEARNED FROM HIM, HOW HE CALLED TIME-OUTS AND THE DECISIONS HE MADE. I SAY HE WAS MY MENTOR, ALTHOUGH HE DIDN'T KNOW IT. IT WAS JUST KIND OF A ONE-WAY MENTORSHIP. I GOT TO GO OUT THERE AND MEET HIM AND HAVE DEEP CONVERSATIONS ABOUT LEADERSHIP BASKETBALL AND TRYING TO SUCCEED AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL.

Nam says IN THE BOOK YOU WRITE, BECAUSE OF THE TIME DIFFERENCE, I LIVED IN ENGLAND AND, YOU LITERALLY HAVE TO WAKE UP AT 3:00 OR 4:00 TO WATCH THE GAMES AND YOU DID THIS. AND THIS WAS BACK IN THE DAY IT WASN'T ONLINE, YOU HAD TO ORDER VHS TAPES. I KNOW THE WAY YOU JUST PUT IT WAS KIND OF COOL, KIND OF LIKE HOW I'M TRYING TO BE WITH YOU, BUT, YOU KNOW, FINALLY MEETING YOUR MENTOR, EVEN THOUGH HE DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS YOUR MENTOR, THAT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE SUCH A THRILL FOR A YOUNG MAN COMING FROM IOWA.

Nick says IT WAS SO AMAZING, RIGHT? I REALLY HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE GOING TO DO. HE AGREED TO SEE ME, AND HE DIDN'T SAY, YOU KNOW, LIKE, BOOK TWO DAYS, BOOK THREE DAYS, HE JUST SAID COME ON OUT. I ENDED UP BOOKING THREE DAYS NOT KNOWING IF I WAS GOING FOR A CUP OF COFFEE WITH HIM OR NOT. I LANDED, WENT FOR THIS CUP OF COFFEE WITH ME, TALKED FOR ABOUT 90 MINUTES. HE SAID JUMP IN MY TRUCK. WE JUMP IN THE TRUCK, PULL OVER, IT'S CHERRY SEASON, HE BUYS THIS WHOLE BAG OF CHERRIES, THROWS THEM BETWEEN US, AND I'M SAYING TO MYSELF, MY GOD, I'M DRIVING AROUND WITH PHIL JACKSON, EATING CHERRIES, SPITTING THE SEEDS OUT THE WINDOW. THIS IS AWESOME. THIS IS AMAZING. IT REALLY, REALLY, REALLY WAS SURREAL FOR ME AND SUCH A THRILL, IT REALLY WAS.

Nam says THAT WAS THE LIFE YOU CREATED, RIGHT, WITH HARD WORK?

Nick says I GUESS SO. BUT LOTS OF COOL THINGS HAVE HAPPENED, RIGHT? AND, I DON'T KNOW. I LOVED ALL THOSE JOBS AND, YEAH. I WAS WORKING HARD AND TRYING TO IMPROVE AT MY CRAFT EACH AND EVERY STEP ALONG THE WAY, THAT'S FOR SURE.

Nam says SPEAKING OF MENTORS, YOU MENTORED NATE YORKLAND WHO JUST BECAME THE HEAD COACH OF THE PACERS. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU LEARNED FROM THAT TRIP WITH PHIL JACKSON THAT YOU PASSED ON TO NATE?

In a picture, Nick and a clean-shaven and shaven-headed man in his thirties talk during a game.

Nick says YEAH, OF COURSE. I MEAN, I TOLD NATE EVERY SINGLE THING THAT WE TALKED ABOUT. I THINK THAT NATE AND I ARE... OBVIOUSLY WE'RE LIKE THIS. WE'RE THE BEST OF FRIENDS. WE WORKED ABOUT, I DON'T KNOW, 16, 18 HOURS A DAY SIDE BY SIDE FOR FOUR YEARS WHEN WE STARTED THE IOWA ENERGY IN THE NBA D-LEAGUE AT THE TIME. AND WE FINALLY FIGURED OUT HOW TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP THERE. SO WE'VE SHARED SOME REALLY SPECIAL MOMENTS. I TOLD HIM EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT TRIP.

Nam says YOU MENTIONED THE TRIANGLE OFFENCE, PHIL JACKSON, AND YOU HAVE YOUR OWN VERSION OF THAT, WHICH IS... YOU REFER TO IT AS THE MONK OFFENCE. AND IN YOUR BOOK, YOU WRITE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Mixing music and basketball." The quote reads "I have referred to it as the Monk Offense -a reference to the legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonius Monk. (In truth, I borrowed the term. I first heard it from veteran coach and offensive innovator Ron Ekker.) Great jazz has a structure beneath it and the artists are deeply grounded in its fundamentals. But there's also a freedom and spontaneity. The musicians step forward and create, and the great ones innovate. That's how I see basketball. Free-flowing and seemingly random -but with everyone versed in the underlying system. It only words if we're all speaking the same language."
Quoted from Nick Nurse, "Rapture." September 2020.

Nam says WHEN IT COMES TO PLAYING BASKETBALL, ESPECIALLY IN SUPER-TIGHT GAMES, HOW DO YOU GET THE PLAYERS TO SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE?

The caption changes to "The coach's challenge."

Nick says WELL, WE DO A LOT OF GROUP WORK. I WOULD SAY THAT GOING BACK TO THAT ANALOGY, IT WOULD BE LIKE CONSTANT REHEARSAL. YOU KNOW, IF WE STAY WITH THE BAND THING, WE'RE CONSTANTLY IN THE GARAGE PLAYING AND PLAYING, AND WE ALMOST ALWAYS HIT THE FLOOR AND WE'RE ALWAYS DOING IT IN GROUPS OF FOUR, GROUPS OF FIVE. EVEN WITH NO DEFENCE OUT THERE, JUST GETTING THE FEEL AND THE RHYTHM AND THE FLOW AND ALL THE THINGS THAT THE OFFENCE NEEDS, AND THAT DEVELOPS IN CONFIDENCE, THAT DEVELOPS A HIGH LEVEL OF TRUST, AND, AGAIN, JUST DEVELOPS SOME SENSATIONALISM. THAT'S WHY THAT FREEDOM NEEDS TO BE THERE. WE NEED TO SEE THEM BE SPECTACULAR BECAUSE THEY CAN BE SPECTACULAR.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Nam says AS A COACH, YOU PLACE A LOT OF EMPHASIS ON THE SHOT SPECTRUM. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT IS?

Nick says YEAH. IT'S JUST A SPECTRUM OF THE SHOTS WE WANT TO TAKE ON ONE END, THE REALLY HIGH PERCENTAGE, ACCORDING TO MATH, SHOTS THAT PRODUCE WINNING BASKETBALL AND IT GOES DOWN TO LOWER PERCENTAGES AS WE GO. AND WE JUST TRY TO LIVE IN THIS HIGH PERCENTAGE AREA AND STAY COMPLETELY AWAY FROM THE LOW PERCENTAGE ONES. THAT'S IT.

Nam says WHAT SURPRISED ME, I USED TO PLAY BASKETBALL BACK IN THE DAY AND THEN I STOPPED GROWING. THAT WAS BEFORE THE WNBA. BUT WHAT SURPRISED ME WAS THAT, YOU KNOW, YOU'RE NOT A FAN OF THE MID-RANGE JUMP SHOT, WHICH I THOUGHT WAS SURPRISING. I THOUGHT THE WORST SHOT TO TAKE WAS THE THREE-POINTER.

A picture shows two players suspended mid-air during a game, both reaching for the ball above them.

Nick says WELL, UM, THREE POINTS IS WORTH MORE THAN TWO, RIGHT? SO THE MID-RANGE JUMP SHOT IS ONLY WORTH TWO, AND EVEN THOUGH YOU'LL MAKE A LESSER PERCENTAGE, BUT THE TRUE PERCENTAGE WITH THAT EXTRA 50 percent VALUE ON THERE MAKES THE THREE-POINTER A BETTER SHOT TO TAKE. WE DON'T TOTALLY DISCOUNT THE MID-RANGE JUMP SHOT, AS YOU CAN REMEMBER, PASCAL SIAKAM, KYLE LOWRY. WE HAVE WAYS WE MASSAGE THOSE RULES AND WORK THEM INTO OUR GAME AND THEY BECOME GOOD SHOTS FOR US TOO. BUT WE JUST WANT TO TAKE A HIGH PERCENTAGE SHOT AS MUCH AS WE CAN.

Nam says IS IT HARD TO CHANGE THE MIND SET OF PLAYERS YOU COACH THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU'VE BEEN TEACHING?

Nick says I DON'T KNOW, IT'S A LITTLE CHALLENGING. I WOULDN'T SAY IT'S HARD. BUT, AGAIN, IT'S TEACHING, IT'S TRYING TO PUT IT OUT THERE, TELLING THEM WHY WE'RE DOING IT. WE'RE GIVING THEM SOME TIME TO KIND OF WORK THEIR WAY OUT OF KIND OF THE OLD SYSTEM AND INTO A NEW SYSTEM. YOU KNOW, HAVE SOME PATIENCE WITH THAT. AND JUST KIND OF STAY WITH IT. AND THEN THEY HAVE A LITTLE SUCCESS AND THEN THEY START BELIEVING IN WHAT WE'RE DOING.

Nam says I CHANGED MY MIND IN HOW I COACH MY SON BECAUSE I TOLD HIM DON'T TAKE THE THREE, DRIVE TO THE BASKET OR DO LIKE A MID-RANGE JUMP SHOT. YOU KEEP A BRONZE ELEPHANT IN YOUR OFFICE, AND IT'S SIGNIFICANT.

Nick says YES.

Nam says CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO US WHAT THE STORY IS BEHIND IT?

Nick says YEAH, IT'S JUST... I THINK THAT ALMOST ANY TEAM OR ANY ORGANIZATION, THERE'S ALWAYS PROBLEMS THAT ARISE, AND I THINK THAT YOU HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF THOSE IMMEDIATELY. YOU HAVE TO HAVE ENOUGH GUTS AND CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN EACH OTHER TO JUST PUT YOUR PROBLEMS OUT THERE, FIND SOLUTIONS, AND MOVE ON. AND MY BRONZE ELEPHANT IS JUST KIND OF A FUN WAY, IF ANYBODY HAS A MAJOR PROBLEM, THEY COME IN AND GRAB IT AND SET IT IN FRONT OF MY DESK AND THEN WE SIT DOWN WITH A LITTLE SMILE AND WE KNOW WE'RE GETTING READY TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING SERIOUS AND WE HANDLE IT. AND I JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE WE DO THAT SO WE'RE NOT AVOIDING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.

Nam says WHAT DOES THAT DO? IN THE BOOK YOU DO SAY THAT SOMETIMES IT CAN BE HARD TO TELL SOMEBODY SOMETHING THAT THEY MIGHT NOT WANT TO HEAR, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO A TEAM ON THE COURT, IF YOU DON'T ADDRESS SOMETHING WITH THAT INDIVIDUAL, IT COULD SPILL OVER TO THE OTHER PLAYERS... CORRECT?

Nick says I THINK THAT MOSTLY IT LETS YOU HOLD EVERYONE ACCOUNTABLE, RIGHT? WE CERTAINLY DON'T TREAT EVERYBODY THE SAME. WE TREAT EVERYBODY INDIVIDUALLY DIFFERENT, BECAUSE THEY'RE ALL DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS. BUT IT GIVES YOU A CHANCE TO HOLD EVERYBODY ACCOUNTABLE. LET'S SAY ONE OF THE STAR PLAYERS DOESN'T HAVE A VERY GOOD DEFENSIVE GAME BECAUSE OF EFFORT, LACK OF EFFORT, AND THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM IS, WELL, HE DIDN'T PLAY HARD ENOUGH AT THE DEFENSIVE END AND WE WANT TO ADDRESS THAT ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. THAT'S IT. AND WE THINK THAT HELPS US BE ABLE TO DO THAT SO...

Nam says WHAT IS THE NURSE PILL. IT MIGHT SOUND SOMETHING MEDICAL BUT IT'S NOT.

The caption changes to "We the north."

Nick says IT'S A PRESCRIPTION TO BETTER SHOOTING. IT IS MEDICAL... NO, I'M JUST KIDDING. IT'S JUST A BASKETBALL WE DESIGN FOR KIDS, I WISH I HAD ONE ON ME HERE. I SHOULD. BUT IT TEACHES THEM HOW TO SHOOT AND IT GIVES THEM A VISUAL EACH TIME THEY SHOOT TO LET THEM KNOW IF THEY'RE DOING IT CORRECTLY. IT'S A FAST WAY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING THE PROPER FUNDAMENTALS OF SHOOTING FOR YOUNG KIDS.

Nam says YOU KNOW, I KNOW YOU'RE VERY HUMBLE, THE WAY YOU SAY IT, BUT WHEN THIS HAPPENED, IT WAS WHEN YOU FOUND YOURSELF IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU DIDN'T HAVE A JOB AND YOU DIDN'T HAVE INCOME COMING IN AND YOU DECIDED TO BECOME A SHOOTING COACH.

Nick says YES. WELL, I GOT BACK FROM EUROPE AND WE WERE TRYING TO GET THIS IOWA ENERGY TEAM STARTED AND I WENT TO WATCH A YOUNG KIDS TOURNAMENT, THERE WAS LIKE 80 TEAMS THERE, LIKE FROM AGE 10 TO 14, MAYBE 8 TO 14 YEARS OLD, AND I WAS AMAZED AT ALL THE PEOPLE, ALL THE PARENTS, ALL THE GAMES, ALL THE REFS, EVERYTHING. WHAT A TOURNAMENT FOR YOUNG KIDS TO PLAY. AND I SAT UP THERE IN THE CROWD JUST KIND OF RANDOMLY AND I SAID NONE OF THESE KIDS KNOW HOW TO SHOOT. SO I LITERALLY SAID I'M GOING TO START TEACHING THEM HOW TO SHOOT. I TYPED OUT A FLYER AND TOOK IT OUT THE NEXT DAY AND HANDED IT TO PARENTS AND SAID WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SHOOTING CAMP DOWN THE STREET IN TWO WEEKS. BRING YOUR KIDS. THAT'S HOW IT STARTED.

Nam says NOW YOU USE THAT IN THE NBA WHICH IS REALLY COOL.

Nick says WELL, THE BEAUTIFUL THING ABOUT THAT WAS THE MORE YOU TEACH THINGS, THE MORE YOU LEARN ABOUT IT, AND I LITERALLY WAS TEACHING THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF KIDS EVERY DAY HOW TO SHOOT, AND I WAS LEARNING ALL THESE LITTLE BAD HABITS OR WAYS TO FIX THESE HABITS OR WAYS TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS, AND, YEAH, IT HELPED ME BECOME A BETTER SHOOTING INSTRUCTOR WHICH IS VERY IMPORTANT.

Nam says BRINGING CANADA AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP, YOU BECAME AN HONORARY CANADIAN, BUT ACTUALLY YOUR CANADIAN ROOTS GO FURTHER BACK THAN MOST PEOPLE MIGHT THINK. YOUR MOTHER'S GRANDPARENTS WERE ORIGINALLY FROM ONTARIO...

Nam continues CORRECT?

Nick says YEAH. LUCAN.

Nam says LUCAN. WHAT'S UP, LUCAN? DOES TORONTO FEEL LIKE AN EXTENSION OF THE MIDWEST IN SOME WAYS?

Nick says VERY MUCH SO. IN FACT, I WAS DRIVING UP HERE YESTERDAY NORTH OF TORONTO A COUPLE HOURS TO COLLINGWOOD, BLUE MOUNTAIN, AND SEVERAL TIMES MY WIFE AND I SAID, MAN, THIS LOOKS JUST LIKE IOWA. SO VERY SIMILAR. VERY SIMILAR.

Nam says CANADIANS ARE CONSCIOUS OF THE WAYS IN WHICH THEY'RE DIFFERENT FROM AMERICANS. DOES THAT PLAY INTO THE NARRATIVE AS THE ONLY CANADIAN TEAM IN THE NBA?

Nick says I DON'T KNOW. I'M TRYING TO BUILD THIS AS A DESTINATION, AS THE BEST PLACE TO BE IN THE NBA. I THINK ALL THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD SHOULD WANT TO PLAY HERE, AND WE'VE GOT AN INCREDIBLY DIVERSE TEAM, ORGANIZATION, STAFF, CITY, AND THIS IS A DESTINATION, IN MY OPINION, FOR THE GREATEST BASKETBALL IN THE WORLD.

Nam says I'M NOT GOING TO ARGUE WITH THAT. I'M KIND OF BIASED. YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE COACHES FOR RACIAL JUSTICE. WITH EVERYTHING HAPPENED THIS SUMMER WITH THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD AND THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT GETTING A GLOBAL STAGE, HOW DID YOU BALANCE BEING AN ALLY WHILE SUPPORTING YOUR PLAYERS AND KEEPING YOUR TEAM FOCUSED IN THE BUBBLE?

A picture shows Nick, five players and two other crewmembers kneeling down on the court while holding each other. The players wear black T-shirts with the words "Black Lives Matter" printed on them.

Nick says YEAH. I MEAN, I DON'T THINK THERE WAS ANY WAY TO KEEP THEM FOCUSED WITHOUT GIVING A PLATFORM FOR OUR TEAM TO DISCUSS THESE MATTERS FREELY, OPENLY, AND WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT BASKETBALL, FIRST AND FOREMOST, IF THAT MAKES SENSE. WE HAD TO GET THIS TOPIC OUT, GET SOME THINGS OFF OUR CHESTS, COME TOGETHER AS A TEAM OR AN ORGANIZATION. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE COMMENTED ABOUT HOW PROUD THEY WERE OF THE RAPTORS AND HOW WE KIND OF REALLY WENT OUT ON THE FOREFRONT ON SOME OF THE THINGS WE DID AND I'M PROUD OF THE GUYS TOO. ALL I WAS TRYING TO DO WAS GIVE ATTENTION TO THE ISSUE AT HAND, GIVE THE PLAYERS A PLATFORM AND A LOT OF ROOM TO SPEAK AND SPEAK FREELY ABOUT IT AND HELP THEM NAVIGATE SOME OF THEIR IDEAS AND HELP MOVE THEM FORWARD.

Nam says ON THE RAPTORS, YOU HAVE A TEAM THAT HAS A LOT OF YOUNG BLACK MEN, AND YOU WERE ALL CELEBRATING BEING CHAMPIONS, COVID HIT. AND AS THE COACH, YOU HAVE THAT BURDEN ON YOUR SHOULDERS TO HELP NAVIGATE THEM NOT JUST THROUGH THE GRIEF OF WHAT HAPPENED THIS PAST SUMMER BUT THE GRIEF OF HAVING TO ADAPT TO HOW WE LIVE DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE THAT AS A COACH?

Nick says WELL, I THINK THE FIRST THING I DID WAS JUST MAKE SURE WE CHECKED IN TO SEE HOW THEY WERE. YOU KNOW, HEALTH-WISE, EVERY DAY, SOMEBODY FROM OUR ORGANIZATION WOULD CHECK IN JUST TO MAKE SURE THEY'RE HEALTHY, RIGHT? AND I THINK, AGAIN, TRY TO EXPLAIN... GIVE THEM SOME SPACE. YOU KNOW, IT WAS A BIT SHOCKING FOR EVERYONE, AND, YOU KNOW, THE SAME FOR US AS BASKETBALL PLAYERS. WE WERE GOING ABOUT THIS AT 100 MILES AN HOUR AND WE HIT THE BRAKES. JUST ADJUSTING TO A NEW LIFE. TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHEN THINGS START UP, HOW TO EXPLAIN TO THEM THE PANDEMIC AND HOW TO STAY SAFE AND ALL THOSE THINGS. AGAIN, I THINK, JUST SHOWING CONCERN. PUTTING SOME VIRTUAL HUGS OUT THERE OR VIRTUAL ARMS AROUND THE GUYS WHEN THEY NEEDED IT AND JUST BE GOOD HUMAN BEINGS, YOU KNOW?

Nam says YOU LAUNCHED THE NICK NURSE FOUNDATION THIS YEAR. WHAT IS THAT?

The caption changes to "Off the court."

Nick says WELL, IT'S A WAY FOR ME TO USE MY PLATFORM THAT I'VE BEEN GIVEN TO GIVE BACK AND THERE'S KIND OF THREE STRANDS WE'RE GOING TO FOCUS ON: LITERACY, BASKETBALL, AND MUSIC. AND WE'RE JUST GOING TO HELP PEOPLE AROUND TORONTO, AROUND CANADA, STRIVE IN THOSE AREAS. WE'RE GOING TO GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES. GIVE THEM LESSONS, PUT THEM IN BANDS, GIVE THEM BOOKS TO READ, SHOW THEM HOW TO SHOOT THE BASKETBALL, THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, IMPROVE THEIR SELF IMAGE AND IMPROVE THEIR LIVES, IF WE CAN.

Nam says YOU'RE A FATHER TO YOUNG CHILDREN AND YOU'RE A COACH, AND ALL THESE OTHER THINGS. BUT OFF THE COURT, YOU'RE ALSO IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING YOUR DOCTORATE FROM CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY. FIRST OF ALL, WHERE DO YOU FIND THE TIME? AND SECOND, WHAT'S YOUR THESIS ON?

Nick says WELL, GOOD QUESTION. GOOD FOLLOW-UP QUESTION TO MY FOUNDATION. THE THESIS IS ACTUALLY, I'M STUDYING NBA PLAYERS AND THEIR CHARITABLE IMPACTS THAT THEY HAVE ON THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITIES. THAT'S WHAT I'M RESEARCHING. I'VE DONE ALL THE READING AND RESEARCHING ABOUT ALL THE GOOD AND BAD AND I'M AGAIN JUST TRYING TO GROW MY KNOWLEDGE SO I CAN PASS IT ONTO MY TEAM. ONE OF MY CRITICAL JOBS IS TO MAKE SURE OUR PLAYERS HAVE A BIG IMPACT WHERE THEY'RE FROM AND THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITIES, SO THAT'S WHAT THAT'S ON. WHERE DO I FIND THE TIME? I HAVEN'T DONE WELL LATELY. I'VE DEFENDED THREE CHAPTERS OF MY DISSERTATION RIGHT FROM THE BUBBLE, BEFORE THE GAME STARTED, I HAVEN'T DONE MUCH WORK SINCE. I NEED TO GET TO IT. BECAUSE I CAN SEE THE END FROM HERE. I CAN SEE IT.

Nam says DON'T TELL ME YOU'RE ALSO LEARNING HOW TO BAKE BREAD, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE...

Nick says NO, NO. I'M NOT. I'M NOT.

[LAUGHTER]

Nam says WE NOW KNOW WHEN THE SEASON IS STARTING. DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE RAPTORS WILL BE PLAYING IN THE NEW SEASON?

Nick says I DO NOT. BUT WE SHOULD HAVE AN ANSWER SHORTLY. AND I HOPE THAT IT'S TORONTO.

Nam says IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF TORONTO BEING A HOST?

Nick says OF COURSE. OF COURSE. YES.

Nam says IF SO, IF IT HAPPENS TO BE THAT TORONTO IS THE HOST, WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT DOES THE RAPTORS' ORGANIZATION NEED FROM THE CITY, THE PROVINCE, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO MAKE IT WORK?

Nick says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, THE NBA HAS DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB, OBVIOUSLY, WITH THE BUBBLE, THE TESTING, THE PROTOCOLS THAT THEY'VE PUT IN PLACE. SO I WOULD HOPE THAT THE COUNTRY TAKES THAT INTO CONSIDERATION. WE WOULD BE AS SAFE AS POSSIBLE, RIGHT? WE CERTAINLY WANT TO TRY TO PLAY OUR SEASON. WE CERTAINLY WANT TO PLAY IT IN TORONTO. WE THINK IT MEANS A LOT TO EVERYBODY THAT WE'RE HERE. BUT WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE'RE SAFE. WE CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO SPREAD THE VIRUS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. SO I THINK THE NBA AND THE RAPTORS AND EVERYBODY WOULD BE DO EVERYTHING TO THE HIGHEST OF PROTOCOLS.

Nam says YOU'RE A HUGE MUSIC FAN. YOU PERFORMED WITH THE ARKELLS. WHO ARE SOME OF THE OTHER CANADIAN MUSICIANS YOU ADMIRE?

In a picture, Nick stands on a stage next to a young clean-shaven man with wavy brown hair. Both smile and play electric guitars.

Nick says IT REALLY LOOKS LIKE I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING UP THERE, DON'T I?

Nam says I'M SURE YOU DO.

Nick says I'VE NEVER BEEN SO NERVOUS IN MY LIFE AS GOING ON STAGE WITH THE ARKELLS. I STOOD ON THE SIDE OF THE STAGE THE ENTIRE CONCERT. IT MUST HAVE BEEN 90 MINUTES OR TWO HOURS IN BEFORE I FINALLY WENT ON STAGE AND I ALMOST WENT HOME ABOUT SEVEN TIMES BEFORE THAT. ANYWAY... LET'S SEE. WHO ELSE DO I LIKE? OH, I LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE! SO MANY. DRAKE. NEIL YOUNG. DALLAS GREEN. CITY OF COLOUR AND ALL THOSE GUYS. YOU KNOW, JONI MITCHELL. WHO ELSE?

Nam says IT MUST HAVE BEEN COOL TO BE ON STAGE. I KNOW YOUR MOM PASSED AWAY RECENTLY. OUR CONDOLENCES. AND YOUR MOM GOT YOU TO START PLAYING PIANO. SO TO PERFORM IN FRONT OF A CROWD WITH THE ARKELLS, THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A BIG DEAL FOR YOU.

Nick says IT WAS AMAZING. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I THINK IT WAS ABOUT A WEEK AFTER WE HAD WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP, RIGHT? SO EVERYBODY WAS STILL RIDING HIGH FROM THAT, AND THERE WERE NEARLY 17,000 PEOPLE. IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL SUNNY DAY AND EVENING AT THE BUDWEISER STAGE THERE. SO, YEAH, IT WAS AMAZING.

Nam says SO, NICK, NO ONE ELSE IS LISTENING, I SWEAR. NO ONE IN ONTARIO. NO ONE AT TVO. IT'S JUST YOU AND I HAVING A CONVERSATION. I HAVE TO ASK ONE MORE QUESTION: IS IT A POSSIBILITY THAT A PLAYER BY FIRST NAME GIANNIS, SECOND NAME, WILL BE BECOMING A TORONTO RAPTOR? YOU CAN TELL ME. I WON'T TELL ANYBODY ELSE.

Nick says NOW, YOU KNOW I'M NOT ALLOWED TO COMMENT ON THOSE THINGS WITHOUT GETTING IN A LOT OF TROUBLE.

Nam says IS IT A POSSIBILITY?

Nick says WELL, I WOULD SAY THIS: I BELIEVE TORONTO IS AN UNBELIEVABLE DESTINATION FOR BASKETBALL, RIGHT? AND I BELIEVE THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO ATTRACT THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE NBA. HOW'S THAT FOR AN ANSWER?

The caption changes to "Producer: Preeti Bhuyan, @PreetiBhuyan."

Nam LAUGHS and says I SWEAR, NO ONE ELSE IS LISTENING. NICK NURSE, THANK YOU SO MUCH. IT'S BEEN A THRILL TO CHAT WITH YOU AND I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT THE TORONTO RAPTORS DO IN THE COMING SEASON. THANK YOU.

Nick says OKAY. THANK YOU.

Watch: Nick Nurse: From Journeyman to NBA Champion