This was a big week for professional sports teams, more specifically for the NHL St. Louis Blues and the NBA Toronto Raptors. These two teams won the finals this week, despite overcoming major changes. Now, we are going to dig into the strategies of their coaches.
Coach Craig Berube – St. Louis Blues
Earlier this season, the Blues were at the bottom. On January 3, 2019, they sat in 31st place out of 31 teams. Yet, on Wednesday, June 12, they took home the Stanley Cup for the first time ever in their 52-year history as a team. If you’re wondering what how they did it, you are not alone.
So, how did they do it?
One major change that happened was the coaching staff. On November 19, 2018, former Blue’s coach Mike Yeo was let go after a rough start to the season. Craig Berube was then promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach. As head coach, Berube made a few changes – with their biggest being letting go of backup goalie Chad Johnson and adding goalie Jordan Bennington, a rookie to the NHL.
When Berube first started, he ripped all of their standings off the board in the Blues’ dressing room. This was Berube’s way of letting go of the negative and starting fresh. Berube told SPORTSNET’s Scott Oake that the team started to come together around Christmastime.
“Christmastime the team was really starting to come together. We were starting to really play like a team and play for each other. You don’t always get the wins, but I could tell it was coming together then and then we just went on a run,” he said.
That statement couldn’t be more true. St. Louis won 11 consecutive games from January 23 to February 19. Their season finished 38-19-6. Berube is fair and brutally honest with his players. Getting his team to come together and play for each other seemed to be his biggest priority, and it really paid off.
Coach Nick Nurse – Toronto Raptors
Much like the St. Louis Blues, the Raptors also had a change in their coaching staff for this season. After eight seasons, the Raptor’s coach Dwayne Casey was let go, and assistant coach Nick Nurse took his place. Change has been proven to be the right decision this week. During Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, June 13, the Toronto Raptors took home the win against the Golden State Warriors.
However, many believe they should’ve taken it home on Monday. During Game 5, Toronto was up 103-97, and Nurse called a timeout. That timeout not only stopped Toronto’s momentum, but it also gave the Warriors time to catch their breath and ultimately come back and win the game. People all over social media were calling it the “worst timeout call in NBA finals history.” Yet, Toronto came back Thursday night and pulled through.
Nurse is now the first coach to win both the G-league and now the NBA Finals. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s co-leading scorer, said that Nurse ripped into the team after they lost the first game of their first-round series against Orlando Magic, and it worked. Lowry has also mentioned that this team is much more mature this year, and that Nurse’s personality and style of coaching has had a lot to do with that.
Nurse is honest, calm, yet tough when he needs to be. He has an immense amount of knowledge about the sport. He earns the players’ trust and always knows what plays to call, according to former D-league player of his, Curtis Stinson. Throughout the NBA finals, Nurse’s confidence in his team was high. He made some unexpected rotation switches that seemed to have worked every time.
The Raptors made history Thursday by beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 during game 6 of the NBA finals.