Nick Nurse was expected to transition from his role as head coach of the NBA Development League champion Iowa Energy into an assistant coach on an NBA team's bench this summer. The NBA lockout put a bit of a burden on those plans, however, so Nurse made a different move up the coaching ladder.
Nurse will be named the new head coach the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at a press conference on Monday, according to multiple sources close to the situation, succeeding Chris Finch in the role with the D-League team ran by the Houston Rockets. The transition should be fairly seamless, too, as the reigning D-League Coach of the Year serves as an assistant under Finch with the Great Britain National Team.
The move is interesting considering Nurse is coming off of a D-League title with the Energy, but the chance to coach with an NBA-affiliated team probably was the reason he decided to leave Iowa. It also probably doesn't hurt that he'll be close to Finch -- promoted to the Rockets' bench earlier this offseason -- and likely in line for a similar promotion down the road.
Nurse's move is excellent news for fans of the RGV (and the Rockets) as it not only promotes extra synergy between the NBA and D-League team, but it does put the Energy in an interesting situation. Nurse took a brief sabbatical last season from the Energy when he signed with the Iowa State Cyclones for about a week before some drama happened that allowed the veteran head coach to return to the state's D-League team.
Knowing then that it was likely Nurse might eventually move on, the team put a contingency plan in place when they named Nate Bjorkgren the team's head coach-in-waiting. Bjorkgren is no longer available to take Nurse's spot in Des Moines, however, after recently accepting a job to become head coach of the Dakota Wizards, owned by the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
Knowing the Energy were looking at making a young, up-and-coming coach with D-League experience the team's next head coach, there are a few obvious options for Iowa's ownership to pursue.
As far as candidates off the top of my head are concerned? There's Joel Abelson, associate head coach of the Idaho Stampede; Kevin Young, head coach of the Utah Flash last season; Steve Gansey, assistant coach with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants; and Taylor Jenkins, assistant coach under both Quin Snyder and Brad Jones for the Austin Toros.
The Energy wouldn't be crazy if they decided to look at established coaches with D-League experience, either. In that category, there are: Dale Osborne of the Tulsa 66ers; Paul Mokeski, most recently an assistant with the Vipers; Tony Fritz, formerly of the Sioux Falls Skyforce; and Clay Moser, who spent last season as Eric Musselman's assistant with the Reno Bighorns.
Either way, with Iowa's open player tryouts beginning in just a couple of weeks, this coaching search probably won't last all that long.