Nick Nurse has had some wild moments – on and off the court. But Great Britain’s assistant coach never expected the whirlwind of April.

Starting one day as the head coach of Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League, he ended it as the lead assistant at nearby Iowa State University after his appointment was unveiled with some fanfane. Barely 24 hours later, he was being touted to assume the alpha dog role there after the incumbent head coach quit. The day after, he was out of a job, before landing back, where he began, with the Energy.

Keeping up?

“I’ve had some crazy 48 hours in my life,” proclaims Nurse. “But that was seriously crazy.”

Most veterans of British basketball have a tale about the affable former Manchester, Brighton and London head coach from his long stint in the UK. He was, as they like to say, “a character”. But four months on from the rollercoaster ride that put him on the brink of taking charge of the college where he attended games as a boy, only to suffer disappointment, he can now look back at the experience with detachment, able to laugh at the bizarre manner in which the drama all unfolded.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already conjuring up images of me doing that (ISU) job,” he admits. But it was not to be, with ex-Minnesota Timberwolves guard Fred Hoiberg taking the reigns and deeming Nurse surplus to requirements.

So here Nurse sits, spending his mid-summer as Chris Finch’s assistant and sounding board while – at least, for now – preparing for another winter in the D-League, hoping for the same thing as his players: A call-up to the NBA.

There was a strong approach from one team, earlier this summer, he confirms. Frustratingly, once again, it was all talk but no action.

“I’d like to go up and I feel like I’d learn more going up than staying down,” he acknowledges. “But I’m going to learn a lot next year. I just want to have a solid season where I’m growing and developing.”

The Energy won a league-record 37 games last term while during his reign, 17 players have been called up into the NBA, an impressive number for a team that is operated independently of its affiliates in the parent league. It is little surprise that the Iowa-native has attracted interest for a spot on a bench elsewhere.

“You sit here and think that either your player personnel decisions are really good or your coaching is really good or it’s a combination of both,” he says. “And you want the opportunity to do one of those things at the next level.”

Maybe another chance awaits? “I think there will be. It’s a hard league to coach in.”

Paul Mokesky is Great Britain's defensive guru

It is a unique league, one which strives to stand on its own merits but which must also meet the needs of the player personnel executives of the NBA that want fodder for the end of their rosters or for training camp. Coaches have to juggle their priorities in the air to keep their job. Ultimately, what takes precedence: development, or victories?

“It’s both,” Nurse answers. “I get asked that a lot. Anybody that answers one or the other doesn’t get it. Even in the BBL, it was about developing players so they’d get better jobs and get into Europe or the national team. It’s always about developing players and winning, even in the NBA. There, you want a better contract or to become a two-time All Star.”

There is a similar approach with Great Britain, especially this summer where young recruits like Ogo Adegboye and Matthew Bryan-Amaning have needed extra care and handling to adjust to a new level of basketball.

The coaching trio of Finch, Nurse and Paul Mokesky have placed more emphasis than usual on skills development, utilising the editing skills of Philadelphia 76ers video analyst Monty Schubik – who has joined the team on attachment – to drive home teaching points on a daily basis.

“There is always an element of that,” says Nurse. “It’s been a shorter summer but we’ll get our chances. We do it through film, and on the court. There are some nice pieces here who need some attention and we can’t let that pass us by.”

The lessons seem to be sticking with GB 5-0 heading into Monday night’s pivotal tie in Macedonia. “It’s been awesome,” he declares. “It’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Long may it continue. But Nurse, of anyone, is well-prepared for the unexpected should it arise.

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