After firing Nick Nurse on April 21, the Toronto Raptors are still in search of their next head coach, with rumors circulating that the team has narrowed its decision down to three prime candidates. Let’s take a look at the perceived frontrunners at this point in the race, as well as some interesting dark horses.
Atop the list is former Raptors assistant coach Sergio Scariolo. La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Andrea Tosi confirmed the news and added that another interview would take place prior to any final judgements.
It’s no surprise that Scariolo is a finalist for Toronto’s head coaching vacancy. After serving as an assistant with the Raptors from 2018-21 — a run that saw the team win its first championship — he returned to Italy and began coaching Virtus Bologna. The 62-year-old instantly changed life for the franchise, leading it to back-to-back Italian Supercup championships, as well as a EuroCup in 2022.
Raptors executives Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster haven’t been shy regarding their interest in Scariolo, either, as they recently flew to Bologna to interview him in person.
Another name the Raptors reportedly have circled on their board is Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez. While it wouldn’t be the flashiest hire, Fernandez’s basketball acumen is unmatched. He was an assistant under Mike Malone from 2016-22 and recently helped the Sacramento Kings end their 17-year playoff drought.
Fernandez was a proponent of making his big men be versatile on the offensive end, particularly being able to stretch the floor and make it easier for others. This is evident by the Kings’ utilization of Domantas Sabonis. Ultimately, if Toronto signs the 40-year-old, he’ll be able to hone in on the skillsets of some of the team’s bigs, such as Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes.
An interesting fact about Fernandez, though, is that he’s publicly stated his hesitancy regarding positionless basketball — a philosophy that both Ujiri and the Raptors have adopted over the past couple of years.
Nash is also in the running to become the Raptors’ next head coach. Formerly at the helm of the Brooklyn Nets, Nash was let go by the team after three tumultuous seasons. Despite many fans and pundits questioning his coaching prowess because of his rocky tenure in Brooklyn, he does have supporters who assert he’d be a good fit in Toronto.
Furthermore, the Hall of Famer is one of the greatest Canadian athletes of all time. Hiring Nash as head coach of the country’s lone NBA franchise would be a historic moment for the nation.
Dark horses to watch
While these are three of the most likely candidates for the Raptors as the search winds down, there are other intriguing options. For instance, player-turned-analyst JJ Redick interviewed for the job and instantly made headlines. Redick would certainly be an unorthodox hire, considering his lack of experience, but he has been exhausted for his knowledge of the game. He’d also figure to have an easy rapport with players having just recently retired.
David Adelman is another under-the-radar candidate for Toronto. However, because he is currently trying to win a championship with the Nuggets, his availability has been minimal.
The Raptors would like to have their next head coach finalized before this year’s draft on June 22, where they have the 13th pick.