Nick Nurse won the NBA championship in his rookie season as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, but he failed to secure the 2019 Coach of the Year award, which went to Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Nick Nurse NBA Coach of the Year Odds
Nick Nurse along the Toronto Raptors sidelines during the 2019 NBA Playoffs. (Image: Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Kawhi Leonard got all the credit for the Raptors title run. Even though Kawhi is no longer with the Raptors, they have the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. Nick Nurse is finally getting well-deserved recognition during a Kawhi-less season with the Raptors, which is why he’s the favorite to win NBA Coach of the Year at +140 according to PointsBet.

Mike Budenholzer won the award last season after he guided the Milwaukee Bucks to 60 wins and the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Budenholzer is +280 odds to win this season, but history is against him.

2019 Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee 60-22)
2018 Dwane Casey (Toronto 59-23)
2017 Mike D’Antoni (Houston 55-27)
2016 Steve Kerr (Golden State 73-9)
2015 Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta 60-22)
2014 Greg Popovich (San Antonio 62-20)

Since the NBA started recognizing a Coach of the Year, no one has won the special designation two years in a row. Eight coaches won the award multiple times, including last year’s winner, Budenholzer, who claimed the title for the second time since 2015.

In 2014, Greg Popovich won his third NBA Coach of the Year award. He tied Pat Riley and Don Nelson with three Coach of the Year wins. Pops won all three with the San Antonio Spurs.

No Kawhi, No Problem

Nurse is a former star player from Northern Iowa back in the 1980s. He led the school in 3-point shooting, which is where he first developed an affinity for the 3-pointer.

He’s been a head coach since he was 23, and spent most of his early years coaching overseas in Europe, including 11 seasons with the British Basketball League.

Nurse made a name for himself in the D-League, otherwise known as the NBA Developmental League, before they changed it to the NBA G League. He coached for the Iowa Energy and later won a title with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Nurse instituted a run-and-gun offense with the Vipers that made the game fun for young players and for fans.

Nick Nurse was hired by the Toronto Raptors for his first NBA assistant job. Head coach Dwane Casey put him in charge of the offense. The Raptors quickly flourished under Nurse’s offensive schemes. Casey won 59 games with the Raptors and secured the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year while utilizing Nurse’s offense. After losing in the first round to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs, the Raptors fired Casey. They decided to promote from within and named Nurse their new head coach.

Nurse won the NBA title thanks to Kawhi Leonard and one fortuitous bounce against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

This season, Nurse is finally getting credit for the Raptors success. He installed a stifling 3-2 defense that shuts down opponents on the perimeter. On offense, Nurse installed a spread offense with an empty middle that has allowed players to attack the lane while their sharpshooters are evenly spaced on the perimeter.

Good Coaches: Billy the Kid, Stevens, Spo

Despite a stronger Bucks team than last season, history is against Budenholzer winning consecutive NBA Coach of the Year trophies. If you feel like he’s the guy to make NBA history as the first back-to-back winner, then Budenholzer offers tremendous value at +280.

No one expected Oklahoma City would win 40 games this season, let alone be in contention for a playoff spot after they traded away Paul George and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are in the #6 playoff seed and 13 games over .500 under Billy Donovan.

Nick Nurse (Toronto) +140
Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee) +280
Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City) +500
Brad Stevens (Boston) +750
Frank Vogel (LA Lakers) +1100
Erik Spoelstra (Miami) +1200
Taylor Jenkins (Memphis) +2000

Brad Stevens dealt with an ugly situation last year while moody Kyrie Irving was a lame duck before he bolted for the Brooklyn Nets. With all the toxicity gone, Stevens and the Celtics were finally able to breathe again. Kemba Walker has been a welcome addition, while Jayson Tatum has finally emerged as one of the best of the best in the NBA.

In case you were wondering, Erik Spoelstra is probably the best coach in the modern era to never have won the NBA Coach of the Year. Spoelstra benefits from a shallow Eastern Conference pool, but he’s got the Heat playing way above expectations and currently occupying the #4 seed in the East.

Shout out to Taylor Jenkins. If you’re from Memphis, then you know who he is. The rookie head coach has let rookie Ja Morant come into his own as a professional. The exciting Grizzlies currently occupy the #8 seed in the west, and they’re fending off Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on the bubble.

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