Raptors finalizing deal to hire Rajakovic as new head coach
The Toronto Raptors are finalizing a deal to hire Memphis Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic as their 10th head coach in franchise history, TSN's Josh Lewenberg has confirmed.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports Rajakovic emerged out of an exhaustive search process to sell Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster on his fit with the organization. This was also the last NBA head coaching job open.
A native of Serbia, Rajakovic got his start in North America as head coach of the Tulsa 66ers, the G-League affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He served assistant coaching stints in the NBA with the Thunder, the Phoenix Suns and eventually the Grizzlies, where he departed as Taylor Jenkins' top assistant.
The move comes about seven weeks after firing Nick Nurse, who guided the team to their first championship in franchise history in 2019. Nurse was hired by the Philadelphia 76ers as Doc Rivers' replacement last month.
The Raptors finished the 2022-23 season at 41-41, falling to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament and failing to return to the playoffs after a strong 2021-22 campaign.
Ujiri said he was disappointed with how the season went.
"It's been very disappointing for us and we want to gain momentum back as a team, togetherness," Ujiri told reporters after firing Nurse.
"I could see it throughout the year. There was never that full excitement, that full spirit...you all saw it."
According to Wojnarowski, Golden State Warriors' assistant Kenny Atkinson and Milwaukee Bucks' assistant Charles Lee were other coaches given serious consideration in the process.