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#pounditThursday, September 28, 2023

Toronto Raptors make surprising head coach hire

Masai Ujiri at a press conference

Sep 25, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri during a press conference at media day at the BioSteel Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors have picked their next head coach, and it may not be who you would expect.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Saturday that the Raptors are hiring Darko Rajakovic as their next coach. Rajakovic had coached as an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies for the last three seasons.

It is certainly not a bad hire for Toronto, who fired head coach Nick Nurse in April (with Nurse since landing a job to coach another NBA team). The 44-year-old Rajakovic coached as an assistant for five years with the Oklahoma City Thunder (under both Scott Brooks and Billy Donovan) then went on to be an assistant for the Phoenix Suns (under Monty Williams) before joining the Grizzlies under Taylor Jenkins.

But hardly anyone saw that hire coming. An ex-NBA star was once seen as the favorite for the Raptors job with others like JJ Redick, Kenny Atkinson, Mike Budenholzer, and Sergio Scariolo also looking like they had excellent chances. But Toronto has decided that Rajakovic is their choice, and thus they close the last remaining head coach opening in the NBA.

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