Over the last 30 years, Nurse has taken risks and made bold steps and decisions that have shaped his own career as well as many others’. And now he enters the World Cup stage.
Setting the stage for this World Cup began decades ago when basketball was actually invented…. by a Canadian! If you’re from Canada and you watched any amount of CBC programming in the 90s, you know this, and you’re probably able to recite this Canadian Heritage Moment commercial word-for-word. He needs those baskets back, guys!
Despite this fact, today there is only one pro basketball team in Canada, and the Canadian Olympic team hasn’t won a medal since the sport debuted at the Olympics in 1936. Their silver medal was one when they played on a clay-and-sand tennis court against the American team and lost 19-8. While they’ve played in many Olympic games since then, there hasn’t been a Canadian men’s basketball team since 2000 in Sydney.
This week, Canada Basketball begins training for the FIBA World Cup, which takes place in China at the end of August. The World Cup will be the main qualifying event for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the Canadian team will be playing two exhibition games this week: they play Wednesday in Toronto and then in Winnipeg on Friday, both against Nigeria.
Until the Raptors’ NBA Championship with this past June, Canada wasn’t known as a basketball country. They were not a basketball people. We – yes, I am absolutely included here – were just not that into basketball.
The Raptors’ victory changed everything.
And so, thinking about Nick Nurse and his Canada Basketball boys… have faith! As Carlan Gay said earlier today in his piece for NBA.com, “the list of who wasn’t [at the training camp] or who won’t be participating when Canada takes on the world at the end of the month would’ve probably medalled at the World Championships.” There are still 19 very promising young athletes who HAVE committed to this training and to the FIBA World Cup, though. And there’s Nurse. He is enough.
It’s possible that Nurse was the most unlikely of all the NBA coaches to lead his team to a championship win, and yet it happened. It was his first year as head coach. He’s almost spent as much time with British basketball as he has with North American. He’s only coached in the NBA (not including his years with the G League) for the last six years, and only one of those was as head coach. It’s probably redundant to say now that his championship win was extremely unexpected and unlikely.
Nurse isn’t a stranger to Olympic coaching, either. He helped coach (under head coach Chris Finch) the Great Britain national team from 2009-2012, including when they played in London’s during the 2012 Games. Granted, the Brits didn’t earn a medal for their basketball prowess that year, but they did much better than many expected.
It’s just too bad that Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakhim aren’t Canadian too.
Ap Images/John Raoux