Darko Rajakovic, the newly appointed head coach of the Toronto Raptors, couldn’t hide his excitement as he assumed his role with the franchise. The 44-year-old coach, born and raised in Serbia, expressed his joy during an outdoor news conference held on June 14.
Replacing the former head coach Nick Nurse, who was relieved of his duties after a disappointing season, Rajakovic is ready to bring a fresh perspective to the team. His appointment was not initially expected, but he managed to impress the Raptors’ front office with his intelligence, attention to detail, and diverse coaching experiences.
During the press conference, Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke about embracing change and the belief that it will benefit the organization. General manager Bobby Webster emphasized Rajakovic’s qualifications, highlighting his international and NBA coaching background, as well as his previous work with high-caliber players.
“We’re really, really excited for this day,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, seated alongside Rajakovic on a stage set up outside the team’s downtown arena. “I know it’s change and sometimes change is hard, but we believe change is good, and change is good for our ball club and our organization now,” he was quoted in an Associated Press (AP) report.
Rajakovic expressed an immediate connection with the Raptors’ staff and the sense of unity within the organization. The Serbian-born coach, who had coached in Spain before coming to the United States, felt honored to be the second Serbian-born coach in NBA history, following Igor Kokoskov. This milestone holds special meaning for the Serbian community in Toronto and Rajakovic’s family and the basketball community in Serbia.
Coincidentally, Rajakovic’s introduction as head coach occurred on the fourth anniversary of the Raptors’ historic NBA championship win in 2019, under Nurse’s guidance. Ujiri, reminiscing about that triumph, ignited the crowd’s enthusiasm by shouting, “Let’s go and do it again!”
The event also featured several Raptors players, including Precious Achiuwa, Dalano Banton, Christian Koloko, Jeff Dowtin Jr., Ron Harper Jr., and Joe Wieskamp. Their presence underscored the team’s support for their new coach and their shared commitment to success.
In other news, it was confirmed that guard Fred VanVleet has opted out of the final year of his contract, making him a free agent. The Raptors remain on good terms with VanVleet, and his decision was not unexpected. Another player, guard Gary Trent Jr., faces a similar decision regarding the final year of his contract.
As Darko Rajakovic assumes his new role, Raptors fans are filled with anticipation for the upcoming season. With the coach’s enthusiasm, the team’s promising roster, and the organization’s commitment to success, the Raptors aim to build on their previous accomplishments and strive for greatness once again.