The Toronto Raptors are hiring Darko Rajakovic as their next head coach, Adrian Wojnarowski reports. The Raptors went with Rajakovic, a Memphis Grizzlies assistant, over other finalists, including Sacramento Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez and former Raptors assistant coach Sergio Scariolo. Rajakovic will take over as head coach after the team parted ways with Nick Nurse at the end of its 2022-23 season. Nurse went on to take the head coaching gig with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Raptors chose Rajakovic because the team believes he fits both paths that Toronto could go down over the next year, per Wojnarowski. If Toronto decides to keep its core players intact of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, the Raptors front office feels Rajakovic can "coach a contending team." However, if the Raptors instead decide to hit the reset button and rebuild around young budding star Scottie Barnes, the team thinks Rajakovic could manage that path as well.
Prior to becoming the Raptors head coach, Rajakovic was an assistant coach for the Grizzlies for the last three seasons. Before that he was an assistant under Monty Williams in Phoenix and spent seven years as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rajakovic has also served on the coaching staff for the Serbian national team at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
The Serbian native first joined the NBA in 2012 when he became the head coach of the Thunder's G League affiliate team, the Tulsa 66ers. During his two seasons at the G League level, Rajakovic coached the 66ers to a 51-49 record, and a trip to the G League semifinals in 2013. After those two seasons he was elevated to an assistant with the Thunder under Scott Brooks, where he was on the staff of OKC teams that featured Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
With a head coach now in tow, the Raptors will now need to turn their attention toward their goal for next season. They have major roster decisions to make this offseason, including what to do with VanVleet who has a player option this summer.
If Toronto decides to run it back with marginal improvements to the roster, then Rajakovic will need to do what Nurse couldn't do last season: make the playoffs. If the team decides to blow it up and shift focus to younger players and the assets they would get in return from trades, then Rajakovic will have the opportunity to build from the ground up. Either way, the Raptors are in for a pivotal offseason, and hiring a head coach was just the first step.