On Thursday afternoon, the first assistant coach for the new-look Raptors 905 staff was announced. Charles Kissi, who has been the head coach for Brock University’s men’s basketball program the past five seasons, will be an assistant with the 905 for the upcoming season. The university made the announcement in a press release; however Raptors 905 could be waiting to announce all the assistants at one time.
Jama Mahlaela, who was named the 905 head coach in June, replaced Jerry Stackhouse following his departure to the Memphis Grizzlies. Mahlaela was an assistant coach for the Raptors since 2013.
“In taking this job, one of my first mandates was that I was given the opportunity to provide other opportunities to Canadian coaches,” Mahlaela said in Brock University’s press release. “I wanted to look at the U Sports scene and see who would be a good fit for what we were doing.”
Kissi has had a handful of coaching experience expanding beyond his tenure with the Brock Badgers. He was an assistant coach for the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team; he coached the Tri-County Thunder in the JUEL league; at the club level coached the Scarborough Blues; and played his university career at McMaster University.
The university is calling Kissi’s departure to the 905 a one-year leave of absence, and that he could be back as the Brock head coach for the 2019-2020 season.
Kissi’s History With the Raptors
Kissi has had a relationship with the Raptors organization dating back to 2011. He attended the Raptors coaching open house, where he impressed former head coach Dwane Casey. Kissi’s ability to understand the game of basketball led to a mentorship under Casey and the Raptors.
“He has it,” Casey said in a Canadian Press article dating back to March 2017. “He is a dedicated young man who is disciplined and has a passion for the game. He’d be a good coach at any level.”
Casey also called Kissi a “super talented young coach”.
The mentorship allowed for Kissi to sit in on Raptors practices, film sessions and even joined the team’s training camp in Vancouver a couple years ago.
Kissi’s relationship with the Raptors flourished to a point that allowed him to spend time in Las Vegas for summer league with the team. This is where the young coach was offered the position with the 905, according to a source.
“Anyone who knows me and my coaching style knows I’m constantly trying to get better,” Kissi said in the press release. “This is just part of that professional development process, but I’ve just been fortunate to do that through the Toronto Raptors.”
He also said that he credits the Raptors as being a major part of his development as a coach.
Kissi’s Accomplishments at Brock University
The seventh coach in program history at Brock, Kissi has taken a rebuilding team in 2013 to a national tournament appearance this past March.
Kissi was a late summer hire for the Badgers in 2013, which limited his ability to recruit ahead of his first season. However, he was able to recruit back-to-back Rookie of the Years in his first two seasons. Dani Elgadi, a late summer pickup in Kissi’s first year, was named OUA Rookie of the Year for 2013-14. In the following season, guard Johneil Simpson committed to Brock and under Kissi would be named OUA and U Sports Rookie of the Year for 2014-15.
“When you talk to coaches it’s kind of awkward sometime,” Elgadi said to me in an interview back in November 2015. “With Kissi, we picked up the phone and ended up talking for an hour and a half.”
The forward went on to say that Kissi let him play through his mistakes in his rookie season, which made him a better player.
“He would see me facing an opponent stronger than me at the time, and he said ‘these are the walls you have to break down if you want to be a great player’,” said Elgadi.
Both Elgadi and Simpson said that Kissi’s ability to see their potential made it an easy decision to pick Brock as the university they would play basketball at.
With Elgadi and Simpson on the roster, the Badgers under Kissi improved every year. In the coach’s second season the team finished 7-12, followed by 13-6, 15-4 and 21-3 this past season. The Badgers have made it to the OUA Final Four in two consecutive seasons and a U Sports Final 8 appearance this past March.
Kissi has a 107-72 career record as the Badgers head coach.
Under the mentorship of Casey, who is known to be a defensive coach, Kissi was able to learn and make the Badgers into a defensive powerhouse. The Badgers improved on the defensive end every season in Kissi’s first four years – they were 0.7 points per game worse this past season compared to the year prior, but still second best in the OUA.
“My job when I came in here was to leave it better than when I found it,” said Kissi. “My plan has always been to step away when the program is healthy. It’s not my program, I’m just the caretaker of it.”
In 5 seasons, Kissi developed Brock’s program into one of Canada’s best, as now he heads to the NBA’s developmental league.
Quick Quotes on Kissi’s Role with the Raptors 905
“He’ll be a key cog in my staff with many responsibilities,” said Mahlalela. “I’ll be leaning on him for advice. His time at Brock and his experience as a head coach is something I’ll be tapping into.”
“My plan is to go there and try to do what I do everywhere: try to get better as a coach, add value to the team and continue to progress,” said Kissi. “At every step I’ve tried to think of what’s best for my family, for me and for the team.”
It was originally expected that the announcement of Kissi being named an assistant for the Raptors 905 would come Monday, but the university chose to speed up the process. The rest of Mahlalela’s staff could be announced early next week, as was planned for Kissi.