Nick Nurse has hired his first assistant.
After being rebuffed in their attempts to land Chris Finch and Sarunas Jasikevicius as lead assistants, the Toronto Raptors are adding Adrian Griffin to the team’s coaching staff, according to a report from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
Griffin comes to the Raptors with a wealth of assistant coaching experience in the NBA, immediately becoming one of the most seasoned voices on the staff. After finishing up a nine-year career as a tough defender in 2008, Griffin immediately went into coaching, joining the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant. From there, he moved to the Chicago Bulls, where he was let go in a move that was derided as somewhat nonsensical at the time, then the Orlando Magic and, most recently, the Oklahoma City Thunder. In all, he has a decade of NBA experience already at age 43.
In Oklahoma City, Griffin was Billy Donovan’s top lieutenant and de facto defensive coordinator (the Thunder have been above average at that end two years in a row despite middling defensive personnel, at least once Andre Roberson went down), and it would stand to reason that he’ll take a similar post in Toronto. At each stop, he’s been well-regarded by both those around the league and each team’s star players (Jimmy Butler raves about him), earning a reputation as a strong players-coach. That he has experience with USA Basketball only adds to his resume working with All-Stars, which he’ll be doing with the Raptors in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Since as far back as 2014, Griffin has been considered a head coach in waiting, and he’s received a couple of interviews, so despite Griffin lacking head coaching experience, this seems like a really solid addition.
The Raptors lost Dwane Casey (Pistons), Jerry Stackhouse (Grizzlies), Rex Kalamian (Clippers), and Jama Mahlalela (Raptors 905) from the front row of their bench this offseason, as well as D.J. Bakker (Pistons) from their video coordination staff. The back row of the bench and most of the support staff (Patrick Mutombo, Jim Sann, Jamaal Magloire, Eric Khoury, Alex McKechnie, John Goodwillie, and others) remain with the organization.