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Report: Raptors keep building coaching staff with the addition of Ivo Simovic

Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic brings his old mentor to his staff.

The Toronto Raptors introduce new head coach Darko Rajakovic in Maple Leaf Square Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors are making another addition to head coach Darko Rajakovic’s staff for the 2023-24 NBA Season.

According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, UCLA assistant coach Ivo Simovic is finalizing a deal to join Darko Rajakovic’s staff. The two go way back, having worked together in Serbia and Spain.

Simovic spent the past year as an assistant coach at UCLA, bolstering the school’s international recruitment efforts. One of the feathers on his cap during his short stay at UCLA is to get a commitment from three of the top international prospects in Jan Vide (Slovenia), Ilane Fibleuil (France), and potentially Aday Mara (Spain). Before that, he’s made a lesser-known school, Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds from the Patriot League, a hotbed for international stars, including Santi Aldama, whom we had an eye on during the 2020 draft.

Rajakovic and Simovic had a similar path, having worked together as a coach for KK Crvena Zvezda’s youth club, serving as a scout for the San Antonio Spurs, and serving as an assistant coach for the Spurs’ NBA Summer League team. Simovic went on to coach for CB Espacio Torrelodones and hired Darko Rajakovic as the coach once he became the GM.

Shortly after crossing the pond, Simovic became one of the best international recruiters in the NCAA, working on the coaching staff at Hartford University, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Loyola Maryland, and most recently, at UCLA under Mick Cronin, who brought him to kickstart the school’s basketball international recruitment program.

While the move may look rooted in connections and familiarity — see Phil Jackson and Tex Winters, Nick Nurse and Nate Bjorkgren, etc. Simovic could potentially plug some loopholes in Raptors President Masai Ujiri’s program.

The Raptors have yet to have a Euro prospect pan out, whether via draft or directly bringing them over from Europe, during Ujiri’s tenure. Simovic’s addition should help with the scouting and prospecting, and with his relationships and connections, help bring talent from an area not often explored by this current regime.

At the end of the Raptors’ season, I wrote a piece about this club needing an organizational reset. I wondered whether the club should try to do things differently, whether the approach and/or the target. Expanding their scouting efforts and leveraging different talent pipelines could be one of the goals for this team in this new Raptors’ era. Also, Simovic’s experience turning a low-level EBA basketball club (Espacio Torrelodones) into a success story via recruitment, development, and implementation of Red Star Belgrade’s system can help the Raptors think outside the box to accelerate the team’s developmental program.

Simovic joins Rajanovic’s staff alongside Jama Mahlalela and Pat Delany.