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Raptors reportedly hire Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic as new head coach

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 1: Assistant Coach, Darko Rajakovic of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on during the game against the Phoenix Suns on April 1, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Toronto is leaning into a first-time head coach, albeit one that has been ready for the chance.

The Raptors will hire Memphis Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic as its next head coach, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by multiple reports since.

Rajakovic, 44, is an assistant near the front of the line of guys who deserved a chance in the big chair, a guy considered a player development specialist. He started coaching at age 17 in his native Serbia — it’s a good week for Serbian sports — and came to the United States in 2012 to coach Tulsa in the G-League. He has since been on the Oklahoma City and Phoenix bench before joining Taylor Jenkins staff in Memphis.

Rajakovic replaces Nick Nurse, who led Toronto to its only championship in 2019 but was let go after missing the playoffs this season. Nurse has since been hired to coach Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Toronto has been a team other franchises in the league are watching to see what direction it goes. Do the Raptors try to re-sign Fred VanVleet and Jakob Poeltl to win now by pairing them with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and a versatile roster, or is it time to break it apart and look to a more Barnes-centric future? Does hiring a player development focused coach in Rajakovic hint at a direction?

There are a lot of teams around the league who would be interested in Anunoby and others if the Raptors decide to break things up.