Darko Rajakovic Is The Perfect Coach For The Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors hired Darko Rajakovic as their new head coach on June 10th. Rajakovic hails from Serbia but has been coaching in the United States since 2012 when he was hired by the G-League Tulsa 66ers to be their head coach. He is known for his analytical approach towards the game and the ability to motivate his younger players. Rajakovic is a believer in the importance of drafting individual game plans for each player, and he also instills confidence in his players by encouraging them to play to their strengths. His style of play revolves around ball movement, fast-paced transitions, and emphasis on the defensive end of the court. 

Based on his history as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder it is obvious that Rajakovic has a deep understanding of the game of basketball. Much like former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse he continually adapts his coaching style to the changing dynamics of a game. The Serbian places emphasis on being well prepared before a game, studying his opponents and devising game plans for a variety of game scenarios. 

A Player’s Coach

Rajakovic is known for his ability to develop young players with a focus on creating an environment where they can learn and grow. He recently had success with helping Desmond Bane develop into an all-star type player. Tyus Jones is another Grizzlies player that rapidly developed under Rajakovic’s tutelage. Speaking to the Eagle-Tribune, Steven Adams said in 2016: "[Rajaković is] just like one of those dudes you don’t know what to expect," he said. "You don’t know whether he’s happy, sad, or just like amped up or nothing. He’s just always wired. So, when he’s trying to teach you something, he’s real serious and then he’s just like, boom! Just crack you. Yeah, he’s crazy." The high praise Rajakovic has received from both the Thunder and Grizzlies organizations likely had Raptors general manager Bobby Webster salivating at the possibility of having Rajakovic help Scottie Barnes take the next step in his development.

Expectations Next Season

The Raptors finished the 2022/23 regular season with a mediocre 41-41 record and were ultimately knocked out of the play-in tournament by the Chicago Bulls. This disappointing season ultimately led to the Toronto Raptors firing former NBA head coach of the year Nick Nurse. The Raptors star players largely underwhelmed throughout the season and Nurse seemingly lost the locker room.

The Raptors are a team that is not entirely sure of its own identity and which direction they will go in the future. Will they rebuild around a bunch of young players or will they continue to go all-in with a veteran core? Rajakovic has proven he can coach on winning teams like the Memphis Grizzlies. He has also proven countless times that he can develop young basketball talent. So, whatever direction the Raptors front office decides to take he should be up to the challenge and the team as a whole has a lot to be optimistic about now.

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