TORONTO — Eldon Miller said just five people showed up for the first players meeting he held as head basketball coach at Northern Iowa. One of them was Nick Nurse.

A college coach lifer at “almost 80,” Miller was one of the many people from Nurse’s past who lined up to congratulate the 50-year-old Tuesday when news broke that he’ll be the Toronto Raptors‘ next head coach.

“His quote to me was ‘Sometimes it’s a crazy business,”‘ Miller said. “I texted him after he told me that and said ‘Maybe it’s not so crazy. Somebody smart enough to hire you has an idea what’s going on.”‘

Nurse was already at Northern Iowa when Miller took over the team. Miller then hired him as a student assistant in what would be the first of more than a dozen coaching outposts on his road to Toronto.

Miller said in his 50 years in the game he hasn’t seen many basketball minds like Nurse’s.

“He likes aggressive offence. That’s kind of the way he played. He never saw an open three he didn’t like. Of course he could make them,” said the coach through a gravelly voice. “You have very few players who not only know where to go on the floor in a play, know the options in a play, but they understand why, they understand the stress it puts on the defence. Nick was way ahead of the game.

“There’s not very many people who can try to figure out ways to improve situations based on who the players are. That’s what a great point guard does, and Nick could mentally — and also physically because he made very …read more



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