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Toronto Raptors Nick Nurse believes the NBA should get rid of the coach's challenge

Despite Nurse's complaints, there is enough data to prove that the coach's challenge has indeed been effective.
January 10, 2023; Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse on the sidelines against the Charlotte Hornets at Scotiabank Arena

Nick Nurse

The coach’s challenge rule was fully implemented in the NBA during the 2020-2021 season. It was a groundbreaking decision as the coach’s challenge was never a concept back in the day. While this new rule has worked to the benefit of coaches and their corresponding teams, that doesn’t mean everyone is a fan of it

In fact, Toronto Raptors head Nick Nurse recently said that he would like the league to abolish the rule.

How have coach’s challenges affected the game?

According to an investigative article published by Sports Illustrated in 2022, the coach’s challenge works 74.7% of the time when an out-of-bounds play is being reviewed. Meanwhile, for goaltending, the success rate is at 74.7%, while personal foul reviews are just overturned 43.9% of the time. 

In short, the data proves that the coach’s challenge is effective.

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While Nurse, who won the Coach of the Year award in 2020, didn’t elaborate on why he believes the NBA should demolish the coach’s challenge rule, there are a few possibilities why he’d feel this way. 

For one, it takes extremely long for referees to review the replay, which disrupts momentum and extends the time. Second, if a coach’s challenge is unsuccessful, a timeout is taken away from the team. There are obvious consequences, but the coach’s challenge is one way for NBA officials to call the game in a more accurate manner.

How a coach decides to request a challenge

While Nurse may feel a certain way about the coach’s challenge, most coaches have the opposite stance about it. 

Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey is one of the most efficient coaches when it comes to getting his challenges right. According to Casey, it’s about having an awareness of when to request a challenge and knowing when to say yes or no when a player is the one asking for a review.

Casey also said that one important strategy he relies on is depending on his staff—in his case, the team’s director of coaching analytics Sammy Gelfand. Gelfand said that the strategy is to bring a laptop with him on the bench, which broadcasts the game. So when there’s a questionable call, he takes at least 10 seconds to review the film before giving Casey the go signal to challenge.

“In a perfect world, it takes five to 10 seconds to get replay of the clip, and then you have five to 10 seconds to look over it real quick and give a quick decision,” Gelfand said as narrated by The Athletic. “(Coach is) allowed to talk to the bench a little bit. It might be a little bit shaky to rely heavily on the on-court video, but there is no reason you wouldn’t use it if you have it available.”

Every coach has the right to have their opinions about the coach’s challenge. Some may not like it, like Nurse, while others have excelled at it, like Gelfand. At the end of the day, the purpose of the coach’s challenge is to initiate more precise officiating — and so far, it has done just that. 

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