5 candidates to replace Nick Nurse as Raptors head coach

With Ime Udoka off the board, the Raptors will have to look elsewhere to find a new head coach. Here are five options they should consider.

With Nick Nurse out as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, the search for his successor begins. While former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka was thought to be an option, he recently signed with the Houston Rockets.

Nonetheless, there remain ample candidates for the job, so let’s take a look at who could be at the helm in Toronto next season.

Earl Watson

Watson joined Nurse’s staff as an assistant coach prior to the 2021-22 season. However, he does have head coaching experience, commanding the Phoenix Suns for parts of three years. Despite an overall record of 33-85, he is highly regarded and is lauded for cultivating young talent. For example, Suns star Devin Booker credits Watson as an integral part of his basketball development.

Promoting Watson to head coach would also be a player-friendly move, with the 43-year-old having strong relationships with some of the team’s current stars, such as Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby.

The roadblock for Watson, though, is that the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith recently reported the team “has been quietly interviewing possible assistant coaches this week, expecting a mass exodus from the staff.” This could indicate the Raptors are looking to clean house and bring in a completely new voice.

Jerry Stackhouse

Stackhouse is another former NBA player that has experience with the Raptors organization. He led the Raptors 905 to a D-League championship in 2017 — a team that had current stars VanVleet and Siakam on it. Furthermore, he had a brief tenure as an assistant coach for Toronto, working under the tutelage of Dwane Casey.

He is currently the head coach of the NCAA's Vanderbilt Commodores. Stackhouse has reinvented that program, leading it to an impressive 22-15 record this past season. He also won the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year.

Stackhouse’s impressive NBA resume would certainly earn a robust level of respect from the players. He was a two-time All-Star and played 19 seasons in the league before retiring. The reluctance to hire him, however, could stem from his lack of experience coaching at the NBA level.

Jerry Stackhouse is an intriguing candidate to be the Raptors' next head coach. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Jerry Stackhouse is an intriguing candidate to be the Raptors' next head coach. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Chris Quinn

Quinn’s hat is ostensibly in every vacant head coaching ring because of how experienced he is as an assistant in Miami. He’s been one of the Heat’s lead assistants for the past nine years and has played an integral role in their playoff success.

Not only has he been one of Erik Spoelstra pupils for nearly a decade — Spoelstra being one of the best coaches in the league over that stretch — but he’s also a former player. He was a point guard in the NBA for six seasons, which means he understands what it means to guide players and control a locker room.

Even if Toronto doesn’t sign him as its next coach, there’s little doubt another team will eventually.

Kenny Atkinson

Atkinson changed life for the Brooklyn Nets before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving arrived and decided to retool the organization.

He is currently an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors and helped lead them to a title last season. Atkinson was actually supposed to be the Charlotte Hornets’ head coach before backing out of the deal at the last minute last June. His ability to develop talent is highly touted, which is why Charlotte wanted him, considering the slew of young players on its roster.

The issue with Atkinson is prying him away from Golden State. He is coveted in the Bay Area and if turning down the opportunity to coach LaMelo Ball is any indicator of his feelings about leaving, then Toronto’s lynchpin is its ability to sell Scottie Barnes.

Adrian Griffin

Whether Griffin gets the head coaching job in Toronto comes down to whether the franchise wants an outside hire or not. If not, then the job should belong to Griffin. He’s been a stalwart for the Raptors for years and has learned from other great coaches like Scott Skiles, Tom Thibodeau, and Billy Donovan.

Not only does Griffin have an outstanding rapport with the franchise but he is known for his developmental skills. Heat star Jimmy Butler praised Griffin for his impact on him when he was a rookie with the Chicago Bulls.

However, Griffin is in the running for the head coaching job in Detroit, too. The aforementioned report of a mass exodus within the current Toronto coaching staff would likely impact him, as well.