It’s possible for the Raptors to pull off a surprise here. Yes, still.
The team could hire a new head coach with the kind of championship-level experience they need at the position, who also happens to be an exciting outside-the-box hire. There are indeed a lot of basketball coaches in the world, and it is impossible to know about all of them. So, sure, it is still possible.
But as coaching candidates are knocked down one by one — world-renowned Igor Kokoskov long gone to Phoenix, James Borrego snapped up by the Hornets, first choice Mike Budenholzer went for Giannis instead — it’s becoming increasingly likely that the Raptors will be left with only a few options. And those options will likely come from in-house.
Fortunately for Toronto: there’s nothing really wrong with that.
The Raptors have three assistant coaches who are all on the radar for head coaching positions. It’s a good problem to have — except now, choosing one may lead to the other two leaving the organization.
Let’s go through the choices here.
Rex Kalamian, the Professional
Kalamian has been in and around the NBA since 1990 as a scout or assistant, working with teams like the Clippers, Timberwolves, and (before Toronto), with the championship-aspirant Oklahoma City Thunder. Kalamian came to Toronto to shore up the team’s defensive principles, and remake the Raptors into a defensive force. His first year, the team was ranked 11th in defensive rating, then eighth, and this past year: fifth. Job well done (even if it largely came undone in the post-season).
Working in Kalamian’s favour is, of course, his accumulated experience with some of the biggest names in the NBA at some of the highest levels of competition. (Any man who can wrestle with Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis deserves a shot at a head coaching position.) If Toronto was looking to hire a guy who could command the respect of the locker room, maybe Rex is it.
Nick Nurse, the Innovator
Nurse is at the other end of the NBA coaching experience spectrum. He’s been around the world of basketball since 1989, but it’s been largely in the “minor” leagues of the then-D-League and the British Basketball League (BBL) in Europe. It’s not exactly a high-powered resume, and yet at the same time: Nurse has crushed it wherever he’s been.
Over the past decade, Nurse has won the D-League Coach of the Year award, led multiple teams to the top spot in that league, and won a title with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Sure, it’s the D-League, but winning is still winning. (And not for nothing, Nurse was the guy tasked with implementing Toronto’s “culture reset” offense, which was, for the most part, a resounding success.)
It says something that someone with limited NBA-level coaching experience could consistently make the list of highly-regarded coaches due up for a promotion. Nurse has been that guy for a few years now — a fact the Raptors likely have in the back of their collective minds.
Jerry Stackhouse, the Veteran
Stackhouse is about as well-known a name in NBA circles as there could possibly be in the world. The man played in the league for almost 20 years, with and against every big name player out there — he was even a two-time All-Star for his troubles. It’s largely why Stack has gone from being a coaching unknown, with just two years of G League experience under his belt, to a frontline head coaching possibility.
Well, that, and the fact that Stackhouse has taken the Raptors 905 to the G League Finals two years running, winning a title his very first season as a head coach. Given the wild roster turnover inherent to the G League, this is a minor miracle. Added all together, we come to a simple conclusion: basketball people respect Stackhouse.
So while Stack has largely been tasked with running variations of the Raptors’ playbook, there’s a possibility he might have a mental edge or toughness advantage that few other candidates have. He’s been there, done that. And for a Toronto team struggling to put it all together on the next level, Stack could be the guy who unlocks the Raptors’ potential.
Barring some out-of-nowhere choice (sorry, I don’t see Becky Hammon coming in to try and lead this group at this stage of the game), it looks like this could be it for Toronto.
And if that is indeed the case, it’s time to go to a poll.
Who will be the next Raptors head coach?
This poll is closed
Other (Fine, maybe they still do have a chance at an outside name)