'Weird' return for ex-Raptors coach Nick Nurse, but he's 'fine, it ended the way it ended'

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He didn’t walk to the wrong tunnel leading to the court the way long-time Raptor Jose Calderon once did upon his first return to Toronto as a visitor, but Nick Nurse admitted it was definitely weird to be back north of the border on Saturday night.

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“That’s a good word for (it). It definitely was, no doubt about it,” Nurse said before his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers, took on the Raptors, an organization he spent a decade with as an assistant and then head coach.

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“Just weird in general and being here the last couple of days in the city, but it’s good. I don’t need to tell everybody here how great the city is. It was fun to walk around a little bit and catch the vibe again. And all that stuff. Ten great years, lots of great memories,” Nurse said.

Those great memories didn’t include the last chapter of his Toronto story, even if Nurse claims to have moved on from his firing after last season.

“I’m fine. It ended the way it ended,” he said, before adding that if the team had been more successful, he might still be in charge. “It could have went either way. If we’d played a little better towards the playoffs or the play-in or whatever, who knows. I think like I said, when I left … it felt like it was time — probably both sides — and still feels that way to me.”

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Nurse complimented his old team and how they have looked so far under his successor Darko Rajakovic, while adding he’s “really enjoying coaching (the Sixers), so I think everybody’s where they’re supposed to be.”

Nurse also gave a shout-out Canada’s bronze medal performance at the FIBA World Cup. He stepped down as head coach before the tournament due to commitments with his new job, but put in plenty of work in the preceding years and still has plenty of friends involved with the program.

“That was amazing. I mean, totally expected. I’m so happy that they did. Like, that was a lot of work, a lot of work, from 2018 to get to that point. And I’m just really glad that all the people that put in all that work and the players that committed and all that stuff, that they got to get that done,” Nurse said. “And it’s still not done (Canada will aim for a medal at the Paris Olympics next summer), but … that’s a huge hurdle to get over and a tremendous honour.”

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The Raptors honoured Nurse’s time in Toronto with a video tribute. He also received a standing ovation from the crowd.

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