Raptors’ coaching search takes crazy turn as favorite denied second interview

MONTREAL, CANADA - OCTOBER 14: Vice-Chairman and team president of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, CANADA - OCTOBER 14: Vice-Chairman and team president of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors fired Nick Nurse more than one month ago, and they are the last team that still has a head coaching vacancy. Masai Ujiri is taking his time, even putting out as many smokescreens as possible when it comes to figuring out who is in the running.

Just when it looked like three finalists were emerging, as Marc Stein listed Jordi Fernandez, Sergio Scariolo, and Darko Rajakovic as the trio fighting for the final job, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star came in with a wild rumor that claimed Fernandez is actually no longer in consideration.

Smith reported that Smith and much-maligned former Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash did not move to the second interview phase of the process, which would effectively end their chances of being hired by Toronto. Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson reportedly was interviewed for the position recently.

It seemed like Fernandez was a natural for the job, as he has a history of coaching at the G League level and a history of being associated with efficient offenses. However, the Raptors seem to be interested in a coach with more experience as a head coach in a professional league.

Jordi Fernandez out of Toronto Raptors’ coaching race, Kenny Atkinson in?

Fernandez, who spent more than a half-decade as an assistant of Denver before moving to Sacramento to become the associate head coach, gained tons of momentum among Raptors Twitter users due to his offensive coaching background. However, it doesn’t sound like Ujiri was willing to take the plunge on a new face.

Nash assuredly has a tremendous basketball mind that could play a valuable role if he was an assistant coach, but handing him the keys to everything so quickly after his disastrous stint as the coach of the Nets was an idea that large chunks of the fanbase quickly rejected.

Atkinson is another former Nets coach who got fired, but the fact he turned one of the worst situations in NBA history into a playoff team within a few years gives the Raptors confidence that he can work with some of the team’s younger players. Perhaps Brooklyn could have stayed together with Atkinson in the fold over Nash.


While Scariolo appears to be in pole position right now, the Raptors are making sure that Atkinson gets every chance possible to earn the job. Fernandez, meanwhile, will return to the Kings for one more season before he gets another shot at earning that first head coaching gig.

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