As the boss, Masai Ujiri, said: » We are entering a new era, with new ideas, a new approach. But our goal remains the same: a title. Darko [Rajakovic] shares these goals, as well as a belief in culture, professionalism and hard work. »
A new chapter is opening in Torontounder the leadership of a novice at the position of « head coach » in the NBA, Darko Rajakovicafter a disappointing 2022/23 season, which marked the end of an era.
» We have found the right candidate “, added the sports boss of the Raptors in front of the local media, at the opening of the press conference presenting the Serbian coach, this Tuesday. » We’re really excited. Sometimes change is difficult. But in our case, it is beneficial for our franchise. »
On the side of Darko Rajakovic, the language that appeals to Masai Ujiri is already mastered.
» Joining and leading an elite organization like the Raptors is what I’ve worked for my whole life “, thus launched the former assistant at the Suns, the Thunder and the Grizzlies. » I can’t wait to begin the journey that awaits us to achieve our goals: development, playoffs, title. »
The ideal marriage on paper
Trained in “coaching” in Serbia and Spain before crossing the Atlantic in the early 2000s, Darko Rajakovic multiplies sources of inspiration, visions and ideas.
» In my career, I became close with Zeljko Obradovic (Partizan Belgrade)Sergio Scariolo (Virtus Bologna)Pablo Laso (Bayern Munich). Big names in Europe, from whom I learned a lot. Then in the United States, I was inspired by Sam Presti in Oklahoma City, or by Monty Williams in Phoenix. »
Blessed bread for the Raptors, in search of a brand new start and a new voice for their locker room after a very sluggish end to Nick Nurse’s mandate in recent months. But also, and above all, for Darko Rajakovic, who began his life as a « head coach » in the NBA in a city as cosmopolitan as Toronto, within a franchise still very open to the international under the mandate of Masai Ujiri.
» It’s a big day for me. For the Serbian community too, here in Toronto. I received many messages. “he adds, he who becomes only the second European to obtain a position of” head coach “in the NBA (after another Serb, Igor Kokoskov, with the Suns). » I started in ‘coaching’ when I was 16 years old. Today, almost 30 years later, I am appointed coach of a major franchise, in a great city. I’m proud to be here, to represent Serbia, and I couldn’t have asked for a better city to start than Toronto. »
A coach close to his players
Very quickly asked about his “coaching” philosophy and his approach in a locker room, Darko Rajakovic revealed why he had been recruited, the Raptors having made the development of their young people a priority.
» Since the day I started in ‘coaching’, what I appreciate the most is seeing the players progress and grow. We will win matches, lose others, but seeing the progress of a team and the players is my greatest reward as a coach. “, he continues, he who is unanimously renowned for his qualities as a trainer. » This is my modus operandi. ‘How can I help the organization grow?’ »
Quite a change of tone compared to Nick Nurse, especially with regard to the relationship with young people, particularly sidelined in Toronto during the past season… Young people (Malachi Flynn, Jeff Dowtin, Dalano Banton or Christian Koloko) unsurprisingly present in the front row of this press conference…
» My love and passion for the game, my commitment to the team. he adds, questioned about his principles and values. » It’s not about me. It’s about these guys, the team and how we can step up. How we can help them. I want to be very invested with them, on a human level. I want these guys to know that I really care about them on a personal level. »
Then the Serbian technician to add the sentence probably representative of his future mandate. » Advancing players means improving your tactical options. And so your results. he concludes with conviction.
In short, the honeymoon phase seems ideally launched in Toronto, between Darko Rajakovic and the franchise of which he is now the coach. A very good start in terms of relationships, but the bulk of the work is now to come: sports issues, and therefore obviously the off-season, after a sad 2022/23 campaign, which promises to be intriguing. There is work, but Darko Rajakovic had to have time to set up his project…
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