Brendan Malone, first coach in Raptors history, passes away at 81

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 18: Brendan Malone, head coach (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 18: Brendan Malone, head coach (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Former Toronto Raptors coach Brendan Malone, who made a name for himself as a key member of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons and the first head coach in the history of the franchise, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81. The Denver Nuggets, coached by his son Mike Malone, confirmed the news on Twitter/X.

When the team was just coming into being, former Pistons great Isiah Thomas needed someone who could instill an exciting culture in his new-look Canadian franchise. The ideal candidate would be able to install a tough-as-nails, win-at-all-costs mentality this young team needed to find their legs in the NBA.

He tabbed former Detroit assistant coach Malone as the man who would first lead the squad into battle. Toronto replaced Malone at the end of the season and put Darryl Walker in his place, but his name still must be mentioned heavily when discussing the early days of one of the NBA’s most unique franchises.

Former Toronto Raptors coach Brendan Malone passes away at 81.

Malone’s coaching career started in 1967 at Power Memorial High School in Brooklyn and lasted until his retirement in 2016. His 49-year career was highlighted by ten years in college at schools like Fordham, Syracuse, and Rhode Island before jumping to the NBA.

Malone was an assistant coach in Patrick Ewing’s formative years with the Knicks before coaching in Detroit from 1988 to 1995. He was the architect of the infamous “Jordan Rules” that helped the Pistons beat the Bulls regularly in the postseason and become one of the few true dynasties in NBA history.

The Raptors went 21-61 with Malone as the coach, but he did help Damon Stoudamire win Rookie of the Year and bring enough hype to ignite the passions of a fervent local fanbase.

After years as an assistant with the Knicks and Pacers under Larry Brown, coaching a very young LeBron James in Cleveland, and developing Dwight Howard in Orlando, the Tex Winter Award winner retired in 2016. His son has since established himself as one of the best coaches in the game.

Malone’s Raptors stint may have only lasted one season, but it was he who helped get the team off the ground and made Toronto passionate about this team. His positive impact on the Raptors will never be forgotten.