The Toronto Raptors are adding some international flair to their coaching staff.
Sergio Scariolo, the head coach of the Spanish national team, is expected to join Nick Nurse’s staff once he can come to an agreement with the Spanish national program, Raptors Republic has learned. Scariolo has made his desire to head to the NBA known to former Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa, who is the president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, according to multiple Spanish outlets. Scariolo’s latest deal with the program was supposed to make him the head coach through the 2020 Olympics, and the new FIBA qualifying procedures will likely preclude him from doing both jobs on a full-time basis. The meeting is expected to be a formality, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, which convinced me to hit publish.
As noted here during Las Vegas Summer League, Scariolo was among a handful of international candidates Nurse spoke with in the last few weeks. That list also included Andrea Trinchieri, who Nurse met with while visiting Jonas Valanciunas overseas and who came to Toronto for an interview. Scariolo was around the Raptors in Vegas both observing and interviewing. (Scariolo and Trinchieri are said to be dramatically different personalities, so both being involved in the process must have been a fun wrinkle.)
In Scariolo, the Raptors add a coach with a wealth of experience. The 57-year-old Italian has been a head coach since 1989 when he got his start in Italy following a handful of years as an assistant. In the time since, he’s coached nine different professional clubs including TAU Ceramica and Real Madrid, winning two Spanish League championships, two Spanish Cups, one Italian League Championship, and Coach of the Year awards in both Italy and Spain.
Most recently, he was the coach of Laboral Kuxta in Spain, but since 2015 he has focused exclusively on the Spanish national program, where he’s serving for the second time. Under Scariolo, Spain won the 2009, 2011, and 2015 EuroBasket tournaments – he is one of only four coaches to win three or more EuroBasket tournaments and the only won since 1995 – earned a bronze in 2017, won silver at the 2012 Olympics, and won bronze in 2016. Spain boasts the world’s No. 2 ranked senior men’s basketball program, behind only the United States, and Scariolo has had his fingerprints all over that success.
It goes without saying, but Scariolo comes with a tremendous reputation in international circles, and his presence in Vegas didn’t go unnoticed. He’s said to be as bright as you’d expect from a Nurse hire and carries himself with a charismatic energy that’s helped foster buy-in at the international level. He’s also run a very fun and dynamic offense with the Spanish national team, utilizing some zone principles, a lot of pick-and-roll iterations, and creative use of bigs in transition. While Nurse figures to run a collaborative bench that doesn’t necessarily shoehorn roles, Scariolo could be tasked with more offensive responsibility opposite Adrian Griffin, who ran the defense in his most recent stops.
This may fill out the Raptors staff, as Nurse has now added Scariolo, Griffin, and Nate Bjorkgren. The Raptors lost three coaches this summer in Dwane Casey, Rex Kalamian, and Jerry Stackhouse, and with Nurse sliding into Casey’s spot and Jama Mahlalela moving to Raptors 905, there were at least three openings on the NBA bench. Those have been filled, though further juggling of responsibility – and perhaps more back-of-bench additions – could be in the works, too.