Nick Nurse claims the BBL was instrumental in his rise to coaching his first NBA All Star Game.

The ex-Manchester, London, Brighton and Derby playcaller gets his first taste of the annual mid-season showpiece in Chicago on Sunday night when he helms the Team Giannis and a cast of stellar performers.

Not Nurse’s first All Star Game, of course. They were a few of them back in the British Basketball League.

Yet having continued his unlikely ascent by guiding the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title last June, the former Great Britain assistant admits his first break was a critical step.

“It was a long time ago, about 30 years ago when I first started coaching the Derby Rams,” he said. “I was player-coach so I was playing and the head coach at the same time.

“It was all a great experience, I had no idea what I was doing then but it was a first step toward cutting my teeth and learning this profession.

“England was maybe an unlikely first step to doing that but I was coaching professional basketball. I had a lot of games and I was just trying to keep the things that were good, throw out those things which weren’t so good and just try and get better every year.

“I loved those jobs. They were awesome for me.”

With his Toronto staff accompanying him to Chicago, Nurse will be adjoined on Sunday by Fab Flournoy who was also part of the coaching staff for the USA in Friday’s Rising Stars Game.

Quite the leap from Newcastle to the epicentre of the hoops universe in barely six months.

“It’s a big honour to be here,” Nurse underlined. “What’s cool is to be able to share it with the staff, with friends and family you here in centre of the basketball world now.”

The 69th All Star Game, whose MVP Trophy has been renamed in honour of the late Kobe Bryant, will trial a new format that will see each of the four quarters will become standalone and the fourth quarter played without a clock towards a predetermined winning score.

A confusing revamp. One that might add extra sizzle.

“I really like the new format,” Nurse said. “I think playing each quarter as a game, they ‘ll give us two timeouts in every quarter.

“So I think in that last few minutes of reach, we’ll be calling timeouts, advancing, trying to win those quarters. The prize money goes to charity. I think that will make it interesting.

“I love coaching end-of-game situations. It’s almost like how you run each practice.”

He’s loving it all weekend, truth be told. A load of family driving in from his native Iowa. Friends acquired all over the globe applauding his weird and wonderful journey from obscurity in the Midlands to this stellar show in the Midwest.

All, so unexpected.

“I’m not sure I envisaged it,” Nurse acknowledged.

“I probably dreamt about it once in a while. But once I got to the NBA D-League, then I had my sights trying to do as good as job as I could at that level and maybe someone would notice.”

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

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