TORONTO -

The drought is finally over.

Canada, Iowa, Carroll, you got your ring.

That elusive championship is now in the possession of the Toronto Raptors, thanks in large part to the guiding force of Kuemper Catholic graduate Nick Nurse.

The 1985 state champion and journeyman coach emphatically led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship June 13, in a thrilling game six victory over Golden State, winning the NBA Finals, four games to two.

It’s an astounding accomplishment in so many different ways.

To win the title as a first year head coach (only by NBA standards) while exceeding tremendously high expectations has to feel incredibly sweet.

The fact Nurse did so in such dramatic fashion is the glorious icing on the cake. He helped all but end the vaunted Golden State Warriors dynasty, winners of three of the past five championships, including back-to-back trophies, by trotting out a smothering defensive scheme and riding the wave of a legendary superstar performance. 

For a coach who’s spent more than a decade overseas, won championships in England, Iowa and Texas, this victory is easily the most gratifying. To put it in the words of 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Nurse got his Larry O’B.

“It was a heck of a 12 months,” the coach said donning a championship hat and banner in his post game press conference in Oakland. “And I don’t know, I just try to take things as they come. Didn’t look too far ahead. Obviously when we made some a additions to the team, we thought we could be good, but we had no idea what the health status was and all those things.

Again, you just got to go take the guys you got and go play and manage it the best you can. And then look at the opponents and try to figure out a way to beat them. It was a great group, though.”

Nurse became only the second Iowan in history to coach a team to an NBA championship, joining the Hall of Fame legend Bill Fitch, who won a title with the Boston Celtics.

As quickly as the reward came, Nurse knew there were doubts about this team coming in, he even admitted so himself. The main goal, which has been the sole mission throughout Nurse’s entire career, was to capture a championship. True to form, the Raptors played a tremendously well as a team, a notion that Nurse has driven home repeatedly each step of the way. He convinced veterans like Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol, three guys who all were on different teams not even six months ago, to meld together and play as one. Almost instantly, Nurse noticed their commitment to glory. It didn’t take much.

“They really played together. I thought they really fought hard, they were tough-minded,” Nurse said. “They didn’t seem like this was wearing on them at all. Two months of playoff basketball, they never seemed tired to me.

Mentally, they kept wanting film sessions, they kept wanting to walk through things, they kept wanting to keep learning and improving. And I think that was a big key because we had to do that in the playoff run because we really hadn’t had all that much time together.”

The Raptors are now the only Canadian team to win an NBA championship while Nurse is only the third rookie head coach since 1982 to win a title. joining Steve Kerr in 2015 and Tyron Lue in 2016. 

The former UNI Panther is the first former G League coach to win a title, which also makes him the only coach to have ever won a G League ring and an NBA championship. If that weren’t enough, Nurse helped bring a championship home to Canada. The country up north had gone 26 years since their last title in either Major League Basketball, NHL and the NBA, until Nurse and company arrived on scene.

Nurse was named Toronto Raptors head coach June 13, 2018, replacing reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey after five years as an assistant. He immediately got to work, knowing a championship would be the only criteria for a passing grade. He quickly earned the respect of his players, as well as folded in Leonard’s remarkable talent following a offseason trade with San Antonio. He led the Raptors to the Eastern Conference No. 2 seed, a game shy of tying the franchise record for wins with 58. The playoffs gave way to one of the most captivating runs in recent memory, even if there were constant doubters along the way. They captured an already iconic game seven win over Philly (bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, win), a shocking Conference Finals victory in which the Raptors came back from two games down only to win four straight, before manhandling the two-time champs in the NBA Finals.

Nurse certainly is a Canadian legend in his own right now, capturing a title that sent the country into disarray. The Canadian streets erupted into fireworks, smoke and rather harmless celebration. There wasn’t a single person in Toronto, or Canada, mind you, that did not have a smile and a friendly “Go Raptors” as one walked throughout the city the next day. 

For a guy that started his coaching career at Grand View College at the age of 23, navigated his way to Europe for 11 years, worked random summer league jobs and essentially created a G League team in Des Moines, Nurse now has tremendous validation for all that he’s accomplished over the last three decades. Everything had a purpose. Nurse announced his arrival last week, and staked his claim among the world’s greatest coaching minds. This ring was for him, for the Nurse family and for all of Carroll, Iowa. In a community of 10,000 people, a moment like this may never arise again. Take a moment, everyone. Relish it. For family, friends and colleagues, anyone who has crossed paths with the legend, this title may be the single greatest sports accomplishment in the town’s history.

Fittingly enough, Nurse has never shied from sharing the spotlight, and he’ll gladly use his story as a model of success.

“Well, I would hope it inspires some people that are in those situations to keep working,” Nurse said following the game six win. “I always say that all those jobs meant the world to me at the time, right, winning with Birmingham in ‘96, winning with Rio Grande Valley, whatever year that was. And those games and jobs meant the world to me and I loved all those jobs.

I think you can’t do very good work if you don’t love what you’re doing. I just, I don’t know, and I never really got discouraged. I didn’t really care at the level I was coaching at, I was just trying to learn and get better. That’s it.”