SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX - JANUARY 13: Nick Nurse Head Coach of the Iowa Energy reacts to a play against the Texas Legends during the 2011 NBA D-League Showcase on January 13, 2011 at the South Padre Island Convention Center in South Padre Island, Texas.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

D-League forged friendship and paved path to NBA for Utah's Quin Snyder and Toronto's Nick Nurse

by Aaron Falk

Quin Snyder and Nick Nurse had coached against each other before.

There just weren’t that many people around to see it.

“We didn’t have pre-game media,” Snyder told reporters before Monday night’s game between the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors, “and sometimes we didn’t have post-game media either.”

“One of my favorite things about the D-League was going on the road and losing and not having to talk to anyone after the game,” Nurse added a few minutes later with a laugh.

On Monday night, Snyder’s Jazz and Nurse’s Raptors squared off at Vivint Smart Home Arena, an early season clash between two teams with playoff aspirations. But before either coach had taken the reins of an NBA team, he proved his worth in the minor league ranks.

“I still remember an out-of-bounds play he ran against the zone when we were playing him,” said Snyder, dressed in a G League hoodie. “I learned a lot from him. He was in the D-League when I got there. We played each other a lot because there weren’t as many teams back then and we developed a friendship. He’s someone I respected and have come to know and consider a friend.”

Snyder’s path to the NBA included three seasons with the Spurs’ affiliate in Austin. Nurse, meanwhile, coached the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Iowa Energy over six seasons in the league. Last summer, Nurse was promoted to the Raptors’ head coach, joining Snyder as one of four former G League head coach to climb to the top of the NBA coaching ranks.

“We started coaching against each other and I quickly developed a lot of respect for him,” Nurse said of Snyder. “His teams were really well organized, really well coached. He was one of the really good ones in the league. We kind of became friends out of a mutual respect because we beat each other’s heads in a few times.”

The G League exists as a place for players looking to develop their games as they try to earn a place in the NBA. But Snyder and Nurse are proof that it’s fertile grounds for coaches too.

“The visibility is certainly growing for the league,” Nurse said. “To me, it was a great hands-on experience. Back then, even more so than now, teams were changing like crazy. So your management, your organization, quick teaching, developing chemistry several times throughout the year—it was tested almost bi-weekly.”

“For some of us it provided an opportunity,” Snyder said. “For a coach, that was one way to grow. What sometimes looks like difficulties can be opportunities.”

Tags