Assessing the Toronto Raptors Coaching Staff for 2020-21
Many believe that the Toronto Raptors are one of the best-coached teams in the NBA and we saw that clearly last season. The franchise does well on both ends of the floor and has been excellent when it comes to player development.
In my Raptors coaching staff analysis heading into the 2020-21 NBA season, I deliver more details about Toronto’s head coach Nick Nurse and his assistants by exploring their experience and expertise.
Raptors Head Coach – Nick Nurse
Nick Nurse had an interesting career path after college that started in the United Kingdom. He entered the British Basketball League team Derby Rams as a playing coach in 1990, then bounced between small teams in the USA secondary leagues, Belgian clubs, and UK sides up to 2007.
That’s when Nurse received the chance to lead the Iowa Energy in the G-League, and he had a strong stint there that lasted four seasons.
His next job led him to the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he impressed the Toronto Raptors enough to receive an offer to join the team as an assistant of Dwane Casey. Nurse was responsible for the offense for five years and then became the head coach when Casey was fired in 2018.
Nurse became an NBA champion in his first year and had a strong performance in 2019-20. The Raptors improved their regular-season record and had a good run in the NBA Playoffs despite the departure of Kawhi Leonard.
The most impressive achievement of Toronto’s head coach is that the team was second in defensive rating last season and had an above-average offense that improved in the playoffs. That was enough to earn Nurse the NBA Coach of the Year award.
The big question is if Nurse can help the organization make that extra step and fight for the championship once again next season.
Meet the Toronto Raptors Assistant Coaches
The Toronto Raptors are one of the organizations with the most coaching assistants in the NBA. Let’s take a look at what each member brings to the table.
One of the most experienced guys next to Nick Nurse is Jim Sann, who’s been part of the NBA for almost three decades. He’s had stints as a scout, video coordinator, and various other positions before earning a place as an assistant with the Raptors in 2003-4.
He left the organization for the Rockets and then spent time with the Nets and the Bulls before returning to Toronto in 2016. Sann is involved in pretty much every part of the process, from scouting to long-term development and day-to-day training.
The Italian coaching assistant Sergio Scariolo has a ton of experience in Europe. The specialist led various teams from the continent, including Real Madrid. He is also the head coach of the Spanish national team and has a long list of honors.
Many believe that Adrian Griffin deserves a lot of credit for the Raptors’ title in 2019. The former player arrived in Toronto to become Nick Nurse’s assistant the same season after ten years in the league.
Griffin has the reputation of a guy with an exceptional basketball IQ that can improve every player on both ends of the floor.
After years of working as a video coordinator for the Toronto Raptors, Jon Goodwillie was promoted to coaching assistant in 2019.
He’s the guy who coached the Raptors in the summer league last season, and he obviously impressed the front office enough to climb the ranks.
Another guy that got a promotion last year is John Corbacio. He has been the head video coordinator and assistant coach of Nick Nurse since 2019.
After spending two seasons as the head coach of the Raptors 905, the G-League squad of the Raptors, Jama Mahlalela returned to Nick Nurse’s staff recently. He has been part of the organization since 2013 and his main expertise is related to player development.
The last coaching assistant of the Toronto Raptors is Chris Finch, who joined the franchise in December 2020. His coaching career began in Europe where he was part of English, Belgian, and German clubs.
Finch eventually found his way back to the USA, where he led the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the G-League title in 2010. That opened the door to the NBA and the specialist worked with the Rockets, the Nuggets, and the Pelicans before joining the Raptors.
I’m excited to see what Finch brings to the table as he has the reputation of one of the best offensive assistants in the NBA.
Can This Coaching Staff Lead the Raptors to the Title?
I believe that the Toronto Raptors have one of the most competent coaching staffs in the entire NBA. Nick Nurse proved that the 2019 title was not a fluke after an excellent performance last season and he has the personnel to stay competitive.
Adding a guy like Chris Finch to the second-best defensive team in the NBA sounds scary. The new assistant coach is known for his offensive brilliance and he will have the chance to work with some excellent players.
If Finch can find a way to keep Pascal Siakam’s offense effective in the postseason and improves the overall production on that end of the floor even slightly, the Raptors might be one of the best teams in the East.
The rest of the staff is full of committed pros with plenty of experience in the NBA and most of them have been with the Raptors for a while, so the organization deserves a lot of credit for gather such a strong group to lead the franchise.
If you want to learn more about the players at Nick Nurse’s disposal, you should take a look at my evaluation of the Raptors roster.
Also, feel free to check our NBA blog section for similar posts on every franchise in the league before the start of the 2020-21 regular season.