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Raptors put finishing touch on coaching staff, officially sign four new assistants

Nick Nurse’s coaching staff appears to be complete after the Raptors officially announced the hirings of Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Nate Bjorkgren and Phil Handy as his assistant coaches.

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NBA: Toronto Raptors-Press Conference Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors announced that the team was signing a group of four individuals consisting of Adrian Griffin, Phil Handy, Sergio Scariolo and Nate Bjorkgren to fill out the remaining positions on the team’s coaching staff.

Nurse already had three assistant coaches returning from last season — Patrick Mutumbo, James Sann and Eric Khoury (as well as Bjorkgren who is moving from the Raptors scouting staff as an advanced scout to become an assistant) — who decided to stick around in Toronto after Dwane Casey was hired in Detroit to coach the Pistons.

One face from last year’s staff is missing, however — Rex Kalamian agreed to join the Los Angeles Clippers coaching staff as an assistant coach back in June, just before Masai Ujiri announced Kalamian’s colleague, Nurse, was being promoted to head coach.

The news about Phil Handy came early yesterday after Danny Greenleaked” the info on the first episode of his new podcast, “Inside the Green Room.”

Handy has been in the NBA since 2011, where he began a career as the Lakers player development coach, before taking a job with Cleveland where he would work to become the director of the Cavs’ player development program. Handy was once coached by Nurse in the British Basketball League, and in his only season the Manchester Giants won the league’s championship, nearly 20 years ago.

You can read more on Handy’s accolades and history here, courtesy of our own Daniel Reynolds.

Former NBA player Adrian Griffin’s hiring was one of Nurse’s first additions — announced about a month ago — and today just put onto paper what we knew regarding his deal as lead assistant with Toronto. Last season, Griffin spent the year as an assistant on Billy Donovan’s staff with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As we documented earlier this week, Sergio Scariolo’s name might not pop out to the casual NBA fan, or even to the most die-hard fans for that matter (he earned his chops with nearly 30 years overseas coaching experience), but the Italian-born Scariolo is one of Europe’s most accomplished head coaches. Just over a month ago, the site put a spotlight on Ettore Messina — EuroLeague legend and Nick Nurse’s main competition for the head coaching job of the Toronto Raptors.

Other than Messina, the 57-year-old Scariolo is often considered one of the best European head coaches over the past 30 years thanks to his multiple Spanish Cup and Spanish League championships. In 2007 his Unicaja Malaga team appeared in the EuroLeague Final Four. In addition to both Spanish Cup and League titles over the course of his Spanish League tenure, Scariolo added four Euro Basket titles as head coach of the Spanish National Team.

To join the Raptors coaching staff with the experience he brings is like hiring both Nurse and Messina (at least in terms of distinguishing characteristics), making this an extremely underrated hire to fill out the end of the bench. Scariolo should have fans very excited for next season on top of everything else coming to Toronto in a few months.

Nate Bjorkgren arrived in Toronto ahead of last season after spending three seasons on the Phoenix Suns’ bench as an assistant coach. At just 43 years old, Bjorkgren is one of the youngest coaches in the league, let alone on the Raptors bench.

Last season in Toronto, Bjorkgren worked as an advanced scout with the Raptors, and prior to his seasons with the Suns’ coaching staff, led the Bakersfield Jam, Iowa Energy and Santa Cruz Warriors among others to an overall record of 126-74 in his four total seasons with the minor league. Like Handy, Bjorkgren has history with Nurse, acting as assistant coach on Nurse’s 2010-11 (then) D-League championship-winning Iowa Energy.