The decision has already been made… and it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, Toronto Raptors have chosen Darko Rajakovic, 44, as their new coach ahead of Sergio Scariolo and Jordi Fernández. Both the national selector and the Spanish assistant of the Sacramento Kings were in the last selection phase.
The magician from Brescia even had an extensive telematic meeting last Monday with Masai Ujiripresident of a Canadian franchise that he already knew: he was an assistant from 2018 to 2021. In his first season he won the championship ring, the first in history for the North.
“Congratulations and good luck to my good coaching friend, @DRajakovic! Good pick, it’s great to see a European coach get a chance to prove himself as NBA HC (head coachhead coach)! A sincere thank you to the Raptors, receiving this consideration from what my team has been was very significant!” Scariolo wrote on social networks after hearing the news.
Rajakovic joins Igor Kokoskov (Phoenix Suns, 2018-19) as the only two Europeans to lead an NBA team, apart from David Blatt, who despite his Israeli nationality was born in Boston. Although neither of them jumped directly from the basketball of the Old Continent to the bench of a League franchise. Both had a long journey within different structures of various teams in the North American country.
In the case of Rajakovic, it all starts in 2012, when he landed at the Tulsa 66ers (Development League). from Spain, specifically from Torrelodones, a town in Madrid in which he led the local team for three courses. Then came his jobs as an assistant for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies.. The Tennessee franchise has been their springboard to the elite after three dream years, with continuous growth: from 38 victories in 2020-21 to 56 and 51 the last two seasons.