The Toronto Raptors may not have the best chances at luring Becky Hammon to town based on her latest quotes, but that doesn’t mean their coaching search is totally bereft of quality. The Raptors have already gotten a start on the process, interviewing Sacramento Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez last week.
One name that has not popped up in other coaching searches despite a very impressive resume is Darko Rajakovic, who has spent the last few seasons as Taylor Jenkins’ top assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies. Even with their early playoff exit, Rajakovic could be on Toronto’s shortlist.
Rajakovic spent eight years as the chief youth coach for Serbian powerhouse Crvena zvedza before moving to the G League as head coach of the Tulsa 66ers (now the Oklahoma City Blue). Rakajovic moved to the Thunder from 2014 to 2019 before a year in Phoenix and what has been a productive three-year stint in Memphis.
With young players like Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. becoming elite in a very short span of time, Rakajovic’s ability to work with young talent has already been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Will he be able to bring that energy over to the Raptors in 2023 and beyond?
Will the Toronto Raptors hire Darko Rajakovic?
Not only has Morant become a star and Jackson a Defensive Player of the Year under his watch, but Desmond Bane has become one of the league’s best shooters while Luke Kennard put up video game numbers. Offense and shooting are the names of his game, which could make for a refreshing change of pace.
If he is going to run a system that is close to what Memphis is running right now, Rajakovic might be worth bringing on. Their philosophy of finishing at the rim with high efficiency and also stroking it from 3-point range fits in with modern NBA principles, and it would be a massive change for the Raptors.
Rajakovic, like Fernandez, has also published academic papers (ESPN+ required), giving a detailed history of how the pick-and-roll has evolved and expanded over time. That eruditeness will serve the Raptors well, as will his work with a young Memphis team in the last few seasons.
Some fans may not like the core concept of hiring a coach that has no experience as a head coach and would be relatively unproven, but everything on his resume suggests that he won’t have too steep of a learning curve if he gets the Toronto job.