The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Nick Nurse talks about his greatest achievement — and why it isn't when the Toronto Raptors won a championship

The Toronto Raptors head coach and author of nonfiction book Rapture takes our version of the Proust Questionnaire.
Nick Nurse, centre, gathers his team during a game in 2020. (Nell Redmond/The Associated Press)

Nick Nurse is the coach of the Toronto Raptors and Canada's men's national basketball team. But his journey to get there was long and winding.

His career began playing in high school in Iowa, took him to Great Britain where he coached a team in their pro league, to the NBA G-League, and finally to the bench for the Raptors where the team won the NBA championship in 2019.

His debut book Rapture shares Nurse's journey, alongside him discussing his approach to coaching, leadership and life.

Nurse dropped by The Next Chapter to answer our version of the Proust Questionnaire.

Name your favourite writers.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bob Dylan. During the pandemic, I did a six-week course on Dylan's writings. That was interesting."

What phrase do you most overuse? 

"I do not overuse phrases because I'm not a fan of overused phrases at all. So I try really hard to not overuse overused phrases. There's little things about how we teach and coach that we think if we say them the right way, they sink in and players learn how to execute things better.

"We try to develop a kind of our own lingo that hardly any other teams and coaches use. Again, it's just a way to facilitate learning." 

People say they have no regrets but I don't believe in that. I have tons of regrets and tons of things I wish I would have done differently in my life.

On what occasions do you lie?

"When I'm trying to make a point clear, I might embellish a little bit.

"It may sound better if a guy is shooting 60 per cent rather than 40 per cent. We might guard him harder!"

What is your greatest regret? 

"Oh, man. I have so many of them.  People say they have no regrets but I don't believe in that. I have tons of regrets and tons of things I wish I would have done differently in my life.

"When my mother made me take piano lessons when I was a little kid, I hated them and the only time I ever played was at the piano lesson. 

"Now I'm playing the piano every day and I regret not studying harder when I was younger. I regret that I stopped playing basketball at such a young age because I probably could have played for many more years. I mean, it got me into coaching soon and it became my calling, but still regret that because I think you only get so long to play." 

What is your favourite journey? 

"It relates to what I do. Each and every basketball season kind of becomes its own journey. That's really what makes it so interesting. You start the season, you've got kind of a goal of what you're trying to achieve. You lay out those dreams and visions, you tie it closely with the plan. That plan takes the journey.

"The journey starts moving and twisting and turning and ups and downs and all these kinds of things. Every so often when you're in sports, you get to the end and you reach the top of the mountain —  and it's really incredible to get at the top of the mountain and look back and see what the journey was."

I could say winning the NBA championship is my greatest achievement, but I don't really see that. I would hope that my greatest achievement is inspiring people on a daily basis.

Where would you like to live in? 

"I'm pretty happy where I am. I like living in Toronto. I've lived in four or five countries now. I've moved a lot because of my job. I find I look back with all those stops with a lot of fondness.

"I really loved the year I spent in England. I really loved the summer I spent in Oklahoma. I really loved living on the Mexican border in Texas. I look back at all those with fondness. So I know those places don't sound that glamorous, but I think there's really good in all of them."

What is your greatest extravagance? 

"I don't know. I did recently buy a very nice Steinway grand piano. It hasn't been delivered to my house yet, but that's probably going to be my greatest extravagance. And I'm not a good enough piano player to own a Steinway grand piano, but I'm going to have one, so I better get better quickly."

Nick Nurse on coaching through unprecedented times

The National

8 months ago
7:59
The Toronto Raptors had a post-championship season like no other, including on-court protests and the NBA bubble, but the one constant has been head coach Nick Nurse. Nurse talks to The National’s Adrienne Arsenault about leading the team through these unprecedented times. 7:59

What is your greatest achievement? 

"I have three boys. It is certainly and absolutely the greatest feeling in the world to be a father to those three guys.

"As strange as it may sound, I could say winning the NBA championship is my greatest achievement, but I don't really see that. I would hope that my greatest achievement is inspiring people on a daily basis." 

Nick Nurse's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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