The Toronto Raptors are looking sharp under head coach Darko Rajakovic. His ultra-positive personality and new-look offense had the Raptors in position to absolutely flatten the Sacramento Kings in their Vancouver preseason opener.
While Rajakovic is going to be the tip of the proverbial spear in the team’s quest to get back to the postseason, he can’t do it all alone. Rajakovic brought in a collection of coaches with experience from all over the basketball world, and it could help him exceed Nick Nurse.
Per Josh Lewenberg of TSN, Summer League coach and former Washington Wizards assistant Pat Delany will serve as the team’s top overall assistant and defensive coordinator, while former Raptors 905 standout assistant Jama Mahlalela will be in charge of the team’s fast-paced offense. Ex-Chicago Sky coach James Wade will be involved with analytics.
Vin Bhavnani and Ivo Simovic, both of whom Rajakovic has coached alongside in the past, will work on scouting. Mike Batiste will work with Toronto’s big men, Nurse holdover Jim Sann will work with the team’s younger players, and Mery Andrade and Drew Jones will be player development coaches.
Darko Rajakovic reveals assistant coach roles on 2023 Toronto Raptors.
Delany has been an assistant in the NBA since 2014, working with the Hornets, Magic, and Wizards. While Toronto won’t have as aggressive a defense as they did under Nurse, Delany’s first effort with the team showed how deadly they can be if Jakob Poeltl keeps protecting the rim.
Mahlalela made his name as a tremendous assistant who helped Raptors 905 become one of the most effective G League teams in the league. After a brief stint with the Warriors, Mahlalela is here to bring his own unique flavor to Rajakovic’s Mike Budenholzer-esque offense.
Former UCLA assistant Simovic coached with Rajakovic in their native Serbia, while Bhavnami was on the staff in Oklahoma City when Darko was there. Even though none of Rajakovic’s assistants have any past head coaching experience in the NBA, he has picked a solid combination of longtime vets and bright new minds.
The Raptors chose to largely keep the band together this offseason, which is playing a great deal of hope in Rajakovic and what he can do with this roster. It’s only one preseason game against the Kings, but this staff appears to have taken to their roles just fine.