Nick Nurse Coaching Philosophy [Box-And-One]

Nick Nurse, former head coach of the Toronto Raptors and current coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, has risen to prominence in the coaching world due to his unique and innovative approach to coaching.

His philosophy revolves around fostering a love for winning in his players and helping them to increase their market value in the league.

Nurse’s unconventional yet highly effective coaching style has had a significant impact on the Raptors and the players he has developed​​.

Early Career and Growth

Nick Nurse’s coaching journey began at the age of 23 at Grand View University.

His career has spanned multiple continents, with significant stints in Europe and the D-League in America, before joining the Toronto Raptors in 2013.

Throughout his career, he has shown a steadfast commitment to his principles, which have guided his successful journey in the coaching world​.

Coaching Philosophy

Nurse’s philosophy focuses on instilling a love of winning in his players and improving their market value around the league.

He has a unique approach of reminding players about accolades such as All-Star appearances, MVP nods, and Sixth Man consideration, emphasizing that winning teams usually have players that earn these awards.

He also focuses on helping players reach “another place and a better contract and a longer contract,” which contributes to player buy-in and support for his coaching style​.

An Innovative Approach

One of the defining characteristics of Nurse’s coaching style is his willingness to take risks and be bold.

This daring approach to coaching was what attracted the Raptors organization to Nurse in the first place, and it has paid dividends throughout his tenure with the team.

This willingness to try unconventional strategies and tactics is coupled with a strong conviction and the ability to get players to buy into his plans, even in high-pressure situations​.

Box-and-One Defense

One of the most notable examples of Nurse’s innovative approach was his use of the box-and-one defense in an NBA Finals game against the Golden State Warriors.

Despite never having practiced this defensive strategy, Nurse’s conviction and clear communication enabled his team to effectively implement it during the game.

This willingness to experiment and adapt on the fly is a testament to Nurse’s outside-the-box coaching style​.

Nick Nurse, the Box-and-One, and the Golden State Warriors

Nick Nurse, the Box-and-One, and the Golden State Warriors

The box-and-one defense is a specific type of defensive strategy used in basketball.

It’s considered a type of “junk defense” because it’s used sparingly, typically in unique situations to throw off an opposing team’s offensive rhythm.

In a box-and-one, four players arrange themselves in a box formation around the key, or the area near the basket.

These four players play zone defense, meaning they are responsible for guarding a specific area of the court rather than a specific player.

This allows them to react to the ball and provide help defense wherever it is needed.

The “one” in a box-and-one refers to the remaining player, who plays man-to-man defense on the opposing team’s best player, or the player who is most threatening at the time.

This player shadows the opposing player wherever they go, trying to limit their effectiveness and take them out of the game.

This type of defense is unusual in professional basketball because it’s typically easier to exploit by skilled players and well-coached teams.

However, it can be effective in certain situations where the opposing team relies heavily on a single player, or when the defensive team wants to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm and make them adjust their game plan.

In the case of Nick Nurse’s Raptors, they used the box-and-one defense during the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors to try to limit the effectiveness of star player Stephen Curry.

Despite not having practiced this strategy, Nurse’s clear communication and the players’ execution helped them implement this unconventional defense successfully, showcasing Nurse’s innovative coaching approach

Impact on the Raptors

Under Nurse’s stewardship, the Raptors have enjoyed considerable success.

Even in the face of adversity, such as the loss of star players Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, Nurse has been able to develop new talent and maintain the team’s competitive edge.

His player development efforts were particularly evident in the rise of players like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby, who became key leaders in the team​.

Nick Nurse Shares His Unique Coaching Philosophy That’s Somehow Both Player and Team Friendly


Nick Nurse’s innovative, player-centric coaching philosophy has proven successful in the NBA.

His daring, outside-the-box approach, coupled with a focus on winning and player development, has been instrumental in his success with the Raptors.

As a result, Nurse has not only risen through the ranks of coaching, but has also set a new standard for what successful coaching can look like in the NBA.

His impact on the Raptors and the broader NBA landscape is a testament to the effectiveness of his unique coaching philosophy.

FAQs – Nick Nurse Coaching Philosophy

Who is Nick Nurse and what is his background in coaching?

Nick Nurse is the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, a role he assumed in 2018.

He started his coaching career at Grand View University when he was just 23 years old.

Nurse has coached in Europe and the D-League before entering the NBA as part of the Raptors coaching team in 2013 and later the 76ers in 2023.

What is the core of Nick Nurse’s coaching philosophy?

Nurse believes in instilling a love of winning in his players and increasing their market value around the league.

He motivates his players by reminding them of the accolades that come with winning, such as All-Star appearances, MVP nods, and Sixth Man consideration.

He aims to help players get to a better place in their careers, securing longer and better contracts​.

What’s unique about Nick Nurse’s coaching style?

Nick Nurse is known for his outside-the-box coaching style.

He is willing to take risks and make unconventional decisions, something he was known for even in his minor league days and as an NBA assistant.

Nurse isn’t afraid to experiment with different rotations and styles of play, and he values innovative tactics as long as his players buy into them​.

Can you provide an example of Nick Nurse’s unconventional coaching style?

A notable example of Nurse’s unconventional style was when he decided to use a box-and-one defense strategy during a game, a tactic that was not practiced beforehand.

This move was considered unusual and innovative, and reflected Nurse’s willingness to try unique strategies to win games.

What is unique about Nick Nurse’s coaching style?

Nick Nurse is known for his bold, outside-the-box coaching style.

He is unafraid to take risks and is often willing to look a bit silly in the process.

He is hired to figure out how to win games by any means necessary, even if that means not following a traditional, paint-by-numbers approach.

He is also known for his innovative tactics, often coming up with new strategies on the fly and having the conviction to try them out, and his players have faith in these strategies

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