Already down Chris Finch and Sergio Scariolo in the last six months, the Raptors will now need to replace another assistant coach before the 2021-22 season rolls around. Per The Athletic, Jama Mahlalela — a front-row assistant for the Raptors this past season who recently served as Raptors 905’s head coach for two years — has been hired to join a revamped Golden State Warriors staff.
Mahlalela joins Kenny Atkinson among the recent round of Warriors hires, and with both coaches having deep roots in player development, it’s hard not to see these moves as a bit of a waving of the white flag on the Warriors flailing attempts to drum up a trade market for last year’s second-overall pick James Wiseman. If you can’t trade ‘em, make ‘em better at basketball, I guess.
As is usually the case when an assistant gets poached, it’s hard to pinpoint how it will tangibly affect the Raptors on the floor, if at all. Losing talented people is the price of doing business as a well-run franchise, and there are always qualifed folks out there to assume vacant positions.
This assistant loss does sting a little more than usual, though. Mahlalela got his start with the Raptors in the mid-aughts in the team’s community development department, and worked his way up the ladder to become an assistant coach in 2013-14. The Canadian passport he carries gave him a little extra caché in these parts, too. He was also just a wonderful dude whose presence was simply a delight. He was inclusive, generous with his time, and thoughtful in every interview — though those appearances in front of a mic became scarce as he moved back to the Raptors this past season under the team’s cloak of assistant coach silence.
Toronto will find new assistants, some of them surely quite talented. You’d have to imagine 2020-21’s 905 head coach Patrick Mutumbo would be in the running for a promotion closer to Nick Nurse’s side, same as his G-League assistant Brittni Donaldson. Maybe they’ll try to hire one of the remaining head coaching candidates who misses out on a top job like Wes Unseld Jr. or Jamahl Mosely. All that will be sorted out in due time, but for now the Raptors are short one more spritely personality on the bench.