We knew a few of the names already, but Raptors 905 unveiled their full coaching staff under new head coach Jama Mahlalela for the 2018-19 season on Wednesday. Here is a quick rundown of the names.
Jama Mahlalela will move from the front row of the Toronto Raptors bench to the lead chair with Raptors 905, something I covered more in depth here and here. If you’ve ever watched Open Gym, Giants of Africa, or even just media availability with Mahlalela, you’ll already have an idea of how positive and energetic the UBC product is. As a Swazi-Canadian and former USports player with ample experience in and around the Toronto and Canadian basketball community, he sets the tone for a staff that goes heavy on the Canadian content.
A.J. Diggs and Ryan Schmidt are back for their second respective seasons with the team.
Diggs spent four years playing NCAA ball at UC-Berekely before having a brief run in the G League and then returning to Loyola Marymount for his MBA. After working as a coach and in the recreation field in California, Diggs helped found Elite Skills Academy, and he also served as the director of basketball operations for Athlete’s Performance. He joined the organization as an assistant under former head coach Jerry Stackhouse last season, coming over from the Austin Spurs (and Maine before that) where he’d assisted alongside current Raptors assistant Patrick Mutombo.
Schmidt brings a little more of the Hawaii connection that pops up in the Raptors’ organization from time to time, as he played there in college before transferring to Western Oregon for his senior season. Like Diggs, Schmidt had a brief G League stint and also spent time in the ABA before transitioning to coaching. Last year, he landed with the 905 after a few seasons coaching at the high school and academy level in Oregon.
Mahlalela is bringing in four new names to the 905 bench in Charles Kissi, Charles Dube-Brais, Trevor Pridie, and Arsalan Jamil.
We covered most of what you need to know about Kissi when we broke the news he’d be taking a leave from Brock University to join Mahlalela’s staff, and the Toronto native’s resume speaks for itself at the Canadian collegiate level. He also spent time as a mentor coach under Dwane Casey (more on mentor coaching shortly).
Dube-Brais is a little tougher to find information on in English, as his most recent or notable experiences came in China, France, and Quebec and he went to school at Laval. He has an interesting profile, with 16 years of coaching experience from the high school level on upward. He was a guest coach with the San Antonio Spurs at Summer League in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and was a guest coach under Mahlalela and Nick Nurse with the Raptors this past summer, spending time as the head coach of a French Pro A U-21 team in between those earlier stints. Last year, he was the head coach of Chongson KungFu where he won ABL Coach of the Year.
Pridie is a name I’m actually familiar with from Twitter, as he’s an insightful member of the online Canadian basketball community who has shared some of his knowledge with YouTube play breakdowns in the past. Most recently, he was an assistant coach at the University of Fraser Valley while also serving as a head coach and program director at BC Bounce. Before getting into coaching, he was a former Athlete of the Year at his Surrey high school and played at Kawntlen Polytechnic University (in the BCCAA).
Jamil should be a familiar face for those who have watched the Raptors closely the last few years. For the last five seasons, he’s been a member of the team’s basketball operations staff, often working closely with team president Masai Ujiri as his executive assistant. A former Ryerson player with a computer engineering degree, Jamil has also spent time as an event and IT coordinator with MLSE and founded Goals Over Temptations in 2012. Born in Pakistan and currently residing in Mississauga, Jamil is being given a fun opportunity to expand his skill set on the basketball operations side of things here.
The 905 also announced that Mahlalela’s staff will include two mentor coaches as the organization looks to continue helping grow and build Canadian coaching talent. This year, those names are Tamara Tatham and Justin Alliman. We wrote about Tatham earlier today, highlighting her career as one of the most decorated Canadian women’s national team players ever. Alliman was most recently a Jr. NBA head coach and is the CEO of Dream Chaserzzz Basketball, an elite training program here in the city. This should be a great opportunity for both to get valuable experience under a G League staff while also help facilitating player development with their respective backgrounds being obvious fits on that end.
Along with Stackhouse heading to the Memphis Grizzlies, the 905 will say goodbye to Nathaniel Mitchell, Nicki Gross, Harry Ezenibe, and Damany Hendrix. Mitchell has been with the 905 since their inception and is a well-regarded up-and-comer in the Canadian national program, and after three years, it seems he’ll look to grow his resume and experience elsewhere from here. Gross was an assistant under Stackhouse for consecutive seasons, earning rave reviews for her work ethic and quick learning. Hendrix had been with the team for just one season. Ezenibe is the interesting omission here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just being reassigned within the organization – he’s helped coordinate call-ups and player assignments for the last two years and has been heavily involved in Basketball Without Borders camps and a number of other initiatives.