Promptly after the Toronto Raptors were eliminated from playoff contention after losing in the NBA Play-in Tournament, they parted ways with head coach Nick Nurse — and the search for a new coach began.
There have been many twists and turns in the process so far. First, it was reported that there was a long list of candidates who were invited to interview, and many rumours were tossed around. Some names included WNBA coach Becky Hammon, previous associate head coach Adrian Griffin, various assistants around the league, and more.
Time ticked on, and other teams around the NBA also decided to let go of their coaches and find new ones. In addition to the Toronto Raptors, it was the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets who were hiring. Phoenix hired Frank Vogel, Detroit picked Monty Williams, Houston went with Ime Udoka, Milwaukee snagged Adrian Griffin, the 76ers went with Nick Nurse... and the Raptors still haven’t decided.
As the NBA Draft approaches, many are confused as to why the Raptors haven’t picked a head coach yet. Was their top choice taken by another team? Are they being EXTRA picky? Do they like any of their candidates enough to pull the trigger on one?
Let’s take a look at the three finalists the Raptors are reported to be considering for the head coaching position.
Fans may recognize the Italian coach, as he served as an assistant for the Raptors from 2018-2021 before taking a head coaching position back in Europe. He is also the head coach for the Spanish national men’s basketball team. The Raptors front office also reportedly flew to Europe to interview Scariolo — as he was still in the midst of completing his season there.
Scariolo is well renowned in Europe for his coaching skills and the Raptors front office may be considering him to address the issues of chemistry this team has battled with over the past few seasons. As mentioned in Amit Mann’s podcast clip below, Scariolo seems to value cohesion over talent (in some cases). This is intriguing knowing how the Raptors were extremely... not cohesive last season.
Thank you to @GianluBorto for all kinds of details on Sergio Scariolo His team principles, how he's viewed in Europe, style of play & more!— Amit Mann (@Amit_Mann) June 9, 2023
Clip - Sergio won't talk about his strengths. Also cohesion >> talent
: https://t.co/3Ql5XbzRG5 pic.twitter.com/mMI09UpM0f
Scariolo also has a plethora of accomplishments to his name, as referenced below:
1988 - Italian League champ (Assistant)
1990 - Italian League champ
1994 - Italian COTY
1999 - Spanish Cup winner
2000 - Spanish League champ; AEEB Spanish COTY
2003 - Andalusia Cup winner
2005 - Spanish Cup winner
2006 - Spanish League champ
2007 - Andalusia Cup winner
2008 - Russian Cup winner; Andalusia Cup winner
2019 - NBA champ (Assistant) with Raptors
2021 - Italian Supercup winner
2022 - Italian Supercup winner; EuroCup champ
Seemingly the front runner of this search — but who knows when you think of the Raptors front office and their tendencies to go off the beaten trail.
Kenny Atkinson currently serves as an Assistant Coach for the Golden State Warriors. As a player, he played in Europe, before coming over to the NBA to coach. He has been on staff for the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers and the Warriors, and served as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-2020 when he stepped down from the role.
While the hiring of Scariolo would most likely indicate the Raptors are hoping to run it back with some or most of the current roster, hiring Atkinson may be a sign that they are heading in the direction of development.
He has been on championship teams, but most of his experience has been on teams who are in the process of rebuilding. It’s also important to note reports of Atkinson being offered the head coaching job in Charlotte after the 2022 season, but turning it down. Does he want to take on another rebuilding team?
His name is frequently tossed around in these coaching debates, so it’s not surprising that the Raptors are considering him.
Darko Rajakovic is a Serbian coach who is currently an assistant on the Memphis Grizzlies. This is his third NBA assistant coaching job, after stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns. He is also an assistant coach for the Serbian national men’s basketball team.
On the Grizzlies (another developing team cough cough) Rajakovic was apparently involved in the offensive development of Memphis’ young squad. He emphasizes playmaking and had a hand in developing young point guards in Memphis.
Darko Rajakovic is a hell of coach! @DamichaelC explained how he's helped Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr. & more develop with the Grizz. Also, he's a PnR expert— Amit Mann (@Amit_Mann) May 3, 2023
Great insight into a coach T.O. is reportedly considering
: https://t.co/3Ql5XbzRG5 pic.twitter.com/WXNSwLC70w
He is highly regarded by those who are familiar with his work and seems to be a great young coach who may be ready to take a leap in his first head coaching position in the NBA.
With the focus of the Raptors predictably on Scottie Barnes, having a coach who will know how to develop him as a playmaker and a bigger offensive threat may be in the front office’s interest.
These three candidates are reported to be in the final round of the Toronto Raptors head coaching search as the NBA community waits to see which direction the team will go in. It will presumably be any day, even any second now that the Raptors announce their next head coach.
When Masai Ujiri addressed the media after Nurse was released from the organization, he made note that they would like to have a coach picked before the 2023 NBA Draft... and that is soon.
Stay tuned for updates as they come available.