After leading the Iowa Energy to the 2011 D-League title, head coach Nick Nurse headed to the team he beat in the league finals – Rio Grande Valley.
The Vipers open the season tonight (8 p.m.) against the Erie BayHawks at State Farm Arena. Earlier this week, Duane Rankin caught Nurse on the phone and talked to him about why he left Iowa, being part of hybrid partnership and the change in weather.
What made you decide to go to Rio Grande Valley? The (Houston) Rockets just showed a lot of interest in me. Not only in short term, but long term. That’s the biggest reason. I was just impressed with their approach. Thought it would a chance for me to grow as a coach.”
(The Rockets have an hybrid partnership with the Vipers just as the BayHawks now have with the New York Knicks.)
We all see what’s going on with the NBA (being in a lockout). How do you see that impacting the season? “I think it’s impacted it hugely already. I don’t have any facts to back this up, but I would assume the league is a lot younger this year. I don’t know exactly the age of each teams compared to last season or any of that stuff, but it feels a lot younger. Feels like there are a lot more rookies, at least in training camp. I don’t know how many of them end up making rosters. There are a lot of new players, I think in camp, that will hit rosters as well. So that will have an effect. Just looking around, there are a few teams with a lot of vets and a whole bunch of teams with no vets. I think there will be a lot of teams in the same boat, looking to see what they have first of all and make adjustments as need be. If the lockout ends, who knows what is going to happen with our league, you know.”
Being part of this hybrid model. How is that working for you? “First off, I really enjoy it. The Rockets are super, super involved. Like on a daily basis. When you’re at Iowa or in Erie before the Knicks, although I know the Cleveland Cavaliers were pretty heavily involved with them, you don’t know have nearly the close contact about basically everything. The vice president of the Rockets, Gersson Rosas, speak anywhere from one to eight times a day. So I like it. It’s great having their support, their back up, their intelligence and all the thing they bring to the table. It’s been awesome. I’ve really, really enjoyed it.”
At Iowa, you had control over a lot because the NBA affiliates didn’t own the teams in any capacity. In the 1-0n-1 relationships, the NBA teams have more say. How do you see both sides? I think they both can work. I think this side of it is maybe a little bit more realistic of what it’s going to be like or what it would be like or what it is like in the NBA, but they’ve been pretty good. It’s not like just sit down here and don’t get involved in the personnel decisions. They’re pretty open to listen and to suggestions. Good working relationship. A guy like me would be foolish to not want their resources and help and expertise. So far it’s been great.”
Last thing. You went from living in a place where it was freezing. And now you’re somewhere that has a temperature of 88 degrees right now. What has that been like? “It’s been pretty good. I’m getting soft already. I was in Dallas last week for the preseason games and I was freezing the whole time I was there. I wanted to get back south. It’s good. The weather is awesome, especially this time of the year.”