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Nick Nurse named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month

Nurse led the Raptors to an NBA-best 19-4, in case you needed reminding.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The man with the blue velvet suit has done it. In his first stint as Toronto Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse has been named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for games played in October and November.

The honour puts Nurse in the company of Dwane Casey, Sam Mitchell and Lenny Wilkens as the only Raptors coaches to earn the monthly honour from the league. He’s also the first rookie NBA head coach to earn the honour since Luke Walton did so as interim head coach of the Warriors in November 2015.

As you well know, Nurse has led the Raptors to their best-ever start — and the NBA’s best start this season — at 19-4 (now 20-4 with the win against Cleveland).

Nurse has been nothing short of excellent to start his tenure as Raptors coach. He’s done a great job blending the old regime’s free-moving offence (which he helped institute as an assistant over the last few seasons), and a more modern approach to lineup play. The move of Jonas Valanciunas to the bench and Serge Ibaka to the starting centre (on most nights) has been brilliant and long overdue. It’s helped Pascal Siakam blossom as a Most Improved Player candidate with the starting lineup, gives Ibaka the opportunity to play big without needing to be athletic, and balances the Raptors roster. Ibaka and Siakam are both averaging career-high numbers, with 16.8 points and 14.8 points averaged respectively.

With this and other moves, Nurse has overseen an outstanding start to the Raptors season. Toronto ranks third in the NBA, averaging 117.6 points and first in field goal percentage (.494).

Nurse, a native of Carroll, Iowa, spent five seasons as an assistant with the Raptors before assuming the head coaching gig this season.