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Right at his tenure’s end, Raptors coach Nick Nurse has picked a fight



Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse directs his team during the first half of a game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., on April 2.Nell Redmond/The Associated Press

Slowly, the Toronto Raptors are turning from the NBA’s most interesting team into the mid-aughties Sacramento Kings.

We’re nearing the end of this years-long process. No one believes the Raptors are good anymore, nor do they seem very bothered about getting better anytime soon.

Most dangerously, they are boring. Nice guys and all, but incapable of creating buzz. The Raptors have become that friend who texts once a year on your birthday, asks ‘What’s up?’ and then you go back to benignly ignoring each other.

So good on Nick Nurse. Right at the death, the head coach has decided to pick a fight.


It’s a fight with his own team, which isn’t always the best idea professionally. But one must salute his effort to make some noise on the way out.

Nurse got the Raptors’ top job because the team couldn’t get anyone they really wanted. Unable to secure a big name, they went with the assistant coach they already knew. It didn’t seem like a weird choice until Kawhi Leonard was acquired a month later. Then it seemed quite weird.

There were about a million ways it could have gone wrong, prime among them Leonard turning to someone in the training gym and saying, ‘Tell that guy in the glasses to stop talking to me.’

But it didn’t. Even knowing how it ended up, the whole thing was shockingly smooth. The nobody head coach and the NBA’s most intimidating employee finding a middle way through the season. Mostly, that was Nurse asking Leonard what he wanted to do, and then doing that, but a lot of people in sports would have found a way to screw that up.

Nurse came out of that championship run a star. “Box and one.” That’s how most NBA fans will know him his whole life.

Being tagged an old-school, tactical savant was good for the Nurse brand. You could feel him growing into it. The ‘NN’ initialled baseball caps; taking his guitar on road trips; a guest appearance on Murdoch Mysteries.

Once a man has had six lines on Murdoch Mysteries, really, what other mountains are there for him to climb? You know life will never be that sweet again.

This new Showtime approach from the coach did not exactly jibe with the team the Raptors became once Leonard abandoned them. A great team became a mediocre team that still walked and talked like it was a good team. It fooled people. For a while.

Inevitably, people began to blame Nurse. ‘You’re such a genius? Then why can’t you box-and-one the Raptors to fourth place in the Eastern Conference? And, seriously, what’s with the hat?’

As a coach, the danger of accepting any little bit of credit is that you open yourself to all of the blame. Nurse walked into that one.

What do you do when your team is boring and you can’t think of a simple way to improve it? You get rid of the coach. It doesn’t make the players any better. But it does excite people, which is the real job of sports professionals. If you can’t excite them by winning, excite them by leaving. If you really want to knock their socks off, leave in a big huff.

The formerly tight ship run by Raptors president Masai Ujiri began popping leaks last week. Stories ran suggesting that Nurse not only wanted to leave, but knew where he was going – Houston. They also had his replacement picked out – former Boston head coach Ime Udoka, a Ujiri friend.

When that many specific, moving parts are included in a “sources say” story, it might as well be a team press release. It has roughly the same authority.

Nurse could have let the rumours pass him by and made it to the end of the year. That’s only a couple of weeks.

It shouldn’t have been hard. Torontonians may be tired of him, but nobody wishes him ill. Now he gets to go somewhere they think he’s the basketball Da Vinci who won Canada an NBA championship. It’s good news all around.

But, God love him, Nurse could not let it pass. Someone asked him about the rumours.

“I think when this season gets done, we’ll evaluate everything. And even personally, I’m going to take a few weeks to see where I’m at … just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything,” Nurse said. “It’s been 10 years for me now, which is a pretty good run.”

Just say ‘I quit.’ That’s what you’re actually saying there. Or ‘No comment.’ Or deflect. If you don’t want to be bothered by this, there are a lot of ways to avoid that.

Instead, Nurse went with coyness. Maybe he was feeling a little starved of attention. Maybe he wanted to create a PR problem for his bosses. Maybe he wanted to hear fans begging him to stay.

Whatever the case, coy is only good for reporters. It’s not good for the reported.

It is a constant wonder to me that some people who speak to the media every day never figure out a single thing about how they operate. But here we are again. Having turned a small, local fire into an NBA-wide media mushroom cloud, Nurse seems amazed the story won’t die.

He was asked about it again the other night. You could feel frustration coming off him like heat as he answered.

“I’m not … that’s exactly why I made it is to not have to answer that question every game, cuz I got it about three games in a row,” he said. “So let’s move on and talk about tonight and this team and this season, please.”

Print cannot properly capture the delightfully clipped way in which all of this was said, especially the pleading/threatening note on “please.”

Of course, no one cares what Nurse thinks anymore. The story is out of his control. It will dog the Raptors’ upcoming playoff run. When they lose, that’s his fault. If they somehow win, he won’t get any of the credit. Either way, he’ll leave under a cloud.

Considering all that happened on Nurse’s watch, it’s not a dignified exit. But nobody is promised dignity in professional sports. Regardless of what they accomplish, all they can depend on is a warm welcome upon arrival and a rough shove at the end.



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Sail Canada says coach fired because lack of money, not pregnancy



Lisa Ross wants her job back.

The two-time Olympic sailor for Canada was named to the national sailing team’s coaching staff three years ago.

Nine days after telling Sail Canada in March she was pregnant and would take maternity leave later this year, Ross was fired.

Ross was in Andora, Italy, where she’d been coaching Canadian sailors at the European championship. She was about to head to Spain for more competitions and training camps.


The 46-year-old from Mahone Bay, N.S., said during the March 17 video call with Sail Canada’s chief executive officer Don Adams and high-performance director Mike Milner, she was told to pack her bags and return to Canada.

“It was strange and shocking,” Ross told The Canadian Press. “It was a five-minute phone call where I was fired, basically, without cause.

“I was in Europe. I was in the middle of a planned six-week trip.”

Sail Canada said lack of money, and not Ross’s pregnancy, was the reason for her firing.

“Sail Canada terminated Lisa Ross’s contract for financial reasons which had nothing to do with Lisa Ross being pregnant,” the organization said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

“Discussions and the decision to terminate Lisa Ross’s contract took place well before she verbally informed Sail Canada high performance director that she was pregnant.

$80,000 annual salary

Sail Canada said Ross’s salary was supported by Sport Canada Gender Equity funding, which was eliminated at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

“Sail Canada was able to maintain Lisa Ross’s position in the next fiscal year through the Return to Sport funding program but, unfortunately, that funding is no longer available in 2023-2024,” the organization said.

Ross’s annual salary was $80,000. The federal government renewed its funding for gender equity in sport in October with a commitment of $25.3 million over three years.

“This is not available at present, but we have been informed it may be some time in the future,” Sail Canada said in a statement. “We do not know if female coaching will be part of the areas of funding.

Sail Canada said it made its decision to fire Ross “because of financial reasons based on the information available at the time of budget finalization.”

I would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring I can continue in my role …— Former Sail Canada coach Lisa Ross on her firing

“With the 2023-2024 Olympic season fast approaching, and in order for Sail Canada to prioritize Olympic hopefuls and maintain a balanced budget, Sail Canada has to make drastic cuts to its high-performance budget.”

Sail Canada said it sought a Nova Scotia labour lawyer’s advice on Feb. 21 to vet the decision to dismiss Ross.

Ross departed for Europe at the end of February and had no inkling her job was on the chopping block until she was sacked March 17.

“I just would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring that I can continue in my role as one of the more senior coaches on the staff,” Ross said.

Sail Canada said it waited until after the European championship March 10-17 to fire her “so that it would not become a distraction for the athletes.”

Another female hired on contract basis

Ross was the only woman on Sail Canada’s technical staff of a high-performance director and coaches.

Since her dismissal, Rosie Chapman was hired on a contract basis.

Chapman is partially subsidized by athletes and costs 20 per cent of a full-time salary, Sail Canada said.

Ross competed for Canada in 2004 in Athens in women’s three-person keelboat and 2008 in Beijing in women’s dinghy.

She coached laser sailor Brenda Bowskill at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ross was named the Canadian sailing team’s development coach in 2020, but she coached the senior men’s laser team that year.

Ross didn’t coach at Tokyo’s Olympics in 2021. She was on maternity leave with her second child.

She was coaching the 49er FX women’s development team when she was fired. Her third child is due Sept. 1.

She’d planned to continue coaching until August when she could no longer fly.

Ross intended to be back with the athletes in time for January’s world championship and to help prepare them for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She says she communicated that plan to Sail Canada the day she told the organization she was pregnant.

Milner replied that same day: “You should also know Rosie and I have been talking on and off for more than a year on joining our team and I think this is a great opportunity for the girls while you are on mat leave.”

Lawsuit not filed against Sail Canada

Milner also wrote in that email to Ross that his “initial thought” would be to have Chapman become the international coach after April’s Princess Sofia or Hyeres regattas “and focus you on domestic training.”

Ross has filed claims with Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Board and Human Rights Commission but has not sued Sail Canada.

“I’m not asking for a massive amount of money,” Ross said. “I’m asking for my job back.”

The World Sailing Trust recently launched a half-dozen recommendations under an initiative called Project Juno to “support better maternity policies in sailing.”

While Sail Canada insists her pregnancy did not cost Ross her job, it says the organization has pregnancy and parental leave policy “that is in keeping with the Ontario Employment Standards Act” and subject to Sport Canada’s Athletes Assistance Program policies and procedures.

Ross says she has never seen that policy.

She hasn’t filed a complaint with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which was established almost a year ago to administer Canadian sport’s universal code of conduct. Sail Canada is a signatory to OSIC.

“I want my job back, so I want to focus on that,” Ross said. “I want to be a part of the sport system that I’ve been a part of since I was 17.

“I went to my first Pan Am Games when I was 17. It’s been a scary process to go through, just even with my relationship with Sail Canada because that’s been a huge part of my life and I want that to continue.”



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Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA



Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.

Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.

A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.

At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.


It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.

But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.

Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”

Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.



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Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup



KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.

The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.

Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.


Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.

Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.



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