The Toronto Raptors have started to look around the league for top candidates to replace Nick Nurse as the team’s head coach. While names like Kenny Atkinson and Becky Hammon raised some collective eyebrows, one name that could steal the job away is Sacramento Kings assistant head coach Jordi Fernandez.
Fernandez has been the first coach not connected to the franchise that the Raptors have interviewed in this process. He’s certainly built up a resume that has warranted a shot at a head coaching gig, with his most recent season in Sacramento serving as his best achievement to date.
Fernandez got his start with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a player development assistant, eventually going 31-19 in two straight seasons as head coach of the G League Canton Charge. Fernandez was an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets from 2016 to 2022, where he earned rave reviews from coach Mike Malone and players.
Fernandez, who has some familiarity with Precious Achiuwa due to his stint as an assistant coach in the Nigerian national team, played an instrumental role in helping the Kings go from a laughing stock to a legitimate playoff team with a bright future. The Raptors need some of that.
Will the Toronto Raptors hire Jordi Fernandez?
Having worked with names like LeBron James and Nikola Jokic in the past, Fernandez’s hallmark includes an emphasis on big men who can pass and 3-point shooting. Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes could both benefit from this directive, especially if they buy into the system Fernandez helped run in Sacramento.
One interesting part about Fernandez’s candidacy is the fact that he has been on the record taking some swipes at positionless basketball, instead choosing to have his players hone in on specialized skills. Will Masai Ujiri be willing to bend his philosophy to accommodate Fernandez?
Fernandez is one of the brainiest coaches you’ll ever meet, as he is only one completed academic article away from earning a Ph.D. in sports psychology. Fernandez co-authored an 11-page academic paper examining how the success of offensive plays can be determined by behavior and off-ball movement. You won’t find too many of these guys lying around.
Fernandez is an unproven quantity with no connection to the Raptors, but his background and history of success across the league should give Toronto some piece of mind as they try to land the franchise’s next game-changer.