CARROLL, Iowa --Walk through the halls of Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll and you're bound to come across the name Nick Nurse. The multi-sport athlete excelled at just about everything at his old school, but really made his mark in basketball.
“He worked so hard for it, and he didn't score a lot of points, everybody remembers that big state championship game. He didn't score a lot of points but everybody knows he was the glue, he was the floor general,” said John Steffes, President of Kuemper Catholic School System.
Now he's the general of the Toronto Raptors, coaching NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard and getting neck massages from music superstar Drake; quite a way to come for a kid from rural Iowa.
“It puts Carroll on the map. People look at him like a regular coach but we see him as a great person from Carroll, working his way up slowly and finally getting to where he wants to be at his goal,” said student Ross Kenobbe.
The town's love and support for Nurse has Carroll feeling like Toronto-south.
“The regular season was kinda like ‘he’s [just] a head coach, but now like he’s on like one of the biggest stages in the world and the whole town has kinda flipped out” said Junior Jacob Heitshusen.
“My mom and dad are in their late 80s and they don’t watch basketball, but they’re watching the Raptors,” said Steffes.
“My dad texted me and he was like ‘heck yeah Toronto to the playoffs!’ and I'm like ‘you’re watching it now?’ and he’s like ‘Well, Nick Nurse, gotta support him somehow!’” said Kenobbe.
Nurse’s presence on the Raptors bench is even converting some rival fans.
“I even know some of the little kids who are Steph Curry fans, we’re working on them, and slowly but surely their moms and dads are telling them ‘wait a minute, the coach on the Raptors!’ There’s a lot of people on the bandwagon for Golden State but we’re getting that changed quickly in Carroll County” said Steffes.
Nurse stays in touch with his roots, staying in contact with his high school coach and even coming home to watch baseball games. Now, it's the town's turn to watch him.
“It’s hard on us, but we know he’s cool, calm, and collected. He’s done his homework, Raptors in six! They’ve got home court!” said Steffes.
Nurse played basketball at UNI, coached at Grandview University as well as the Iowa Energy. The Raptors tip-off against Golden State at 8 p.m. on Thursday.