At Game Five of the NBA Finals in Toronto, one middle-aged man stood on the sidelines wearing Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s high school jersey from his days at Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll.
That man was Frank Molak, and he was wearing Nurse’s jersey because he had played beside him as he wore it 34 years ago when their team won the Iowa high school boys’ Class 3A basketball championship.
Molak played as an athletic multi-positional guard next to Nurse at the point when they ascended to win it all, defeating Waterloo West by a solid margin.
For the two friends, that was only the beginning. Both went on to play and coach college ball — Nurse at the Northern Iowa and Molak at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Molak coached for at UMKC for six years as well.
“I tell people, Nick and I and every young group in Iowa, especially that group we had, who won the ’85 state championship, we all had aspirations of playing in the NBA, first and foremost,” Molak told the Register from Oakland, where he awaited Game 6 of the NBA Finals. “But Nick’s more realistic dream was to coach in the NBA.”
Nurse’s journey from promising young player from a small town in Iowa to an NBA head coach is well chronicled. Molak has been there every step of the way, cheering him on as he moved up the ladder of coaching jobs until he reached his dream.
Though Molak played and coached for a stint, most of his life has been spent in the entertainment industry as an owner of nightclubs and restaurants throughout the south. These days, he works as a consultant in the industry.
This kind of work has led him to have numerous relationships with figures in the music and entertainment industry, particularly country and hip-hop artists, including rapper Drake. The two met again on the sidelines of Raptors games throughout Nurse’s inaugural season.
In fact, the Kuemper Catholic jersey that Molak wore to Game 5 almost ended up on Drake’s back. The jersey’s red body with gold accents looked fairly similar to the Raptors’ away jerseys and wouldn’t have been out of place in Drake’s wardrobe of provocative sideline outfits.
Nurse, however, requested the jersey stay with Molak in an effort to keep the attention off himself and more on the players and the game.
Throughout their long friendship, Molak has remained dedicated to supporting Nurse: “I’ve always looked at him as the guy who had the ‘It Factor,'” Molak said of his old friend and his quick ascendance to star coaching status. “He just had that ability to really relate to the players and the flow of the games and how things have changed. So I always knew he’d be in the NBA, I just didn’t know he’d here this quickly.”
Molak attended 22 of the Raptors’ 24 playoff games. He wore a white coat to the last ten games, of which the team won eight, including the six Finals games he attended both in Toronto and in Oakland. The coat has now become a one-of-a-kind piece of memorabilia after being signed by the Raptors team, including Finals MVP Kahwi Leonard, TV announcers, Drake and his old friend Nick Nurse along with his coaching staff.
Coming off an astounding NBA Championship win in his first season as head coach, Nurse’s star seems poised only to continue rising in the face of an uncertain off season throughout the league. If only one thing is certain, though, it’s that Nurse’s Day One friend will be on the sidelines, repping Kuemper Catholic through it all.