The top four candidates for the Raptors next head coach

Published On May 15, 2018 | By vannesiacrayton | Sports

Former Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey reacts in the second quarter during game five of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Washington Wizards at Air Canada Centre. The team is now searching for a new coach after he was fired May 11. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

Ryan Brockerville and Vannesia Crayton

The Toronto Raptors crashed and burned in the second round of this years NBA playoffs, losing yet again at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, thus prompting the firing of head coach Dwane Casey after a seven year tenure with the team.

Casey was fired two days after winning the Michael H. Goldberg NBA Coach of Year award.

Raptors General Manger Masai Ujiri says it was the hardest thing he had ever done.

“I cannot imagine working with anyone better in my career,” Ujiri said. Nor could the other NBA coaches who voted Casey as the best in the league.

The Raptors are now looking for a new coach, with new ideas and a new direction for the team.

Here are the top four candidates to fill the head coaching vacancy:

  1. Nick Nurse

Photo taken from The Athletic

Nurse has been an assistant coach with the Raptors since 2013.

He formerly coached in Europe for 12 seasons and was the BBL (British Basketball League) coach of the year.  Nurse was also associate coach of the Iowa State Cyclones.

He also won the Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year Award after leading the NBA G-League Iowa Wolves to a 37-13 record in 2010-2011. Nurse is a prime candidate for a NBA head coaching position and was instrumental in the Raptors improved offensive numbers this past season but if the Raptors are looking to elevate the team, then an internal hire like Nurse may not be the right move.

TWEET “Nick Nurse is widely respected and will certainly get serious consideration from both the Raptors as well as other NBA teams,” said Sportsnet NBA insider Michael Grange

2. Mike BudenHolzer

Photo taken from

Budenholzer was a former assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich —who is renowned for producing quality NBA coaches under his watch — for 17 years.

A four time NBA champion under his mentor, Budenholzer spent the last four seasons as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. During his tenure, the Hawks posted a 60-win season in 2015 and Budenholzer was awarded coach of the year that season.

Budenholzer has a head coaching record of 213-197 with a post season record of 17-22.

He is certainly one of the most qualified candidates the Raptors are interviewing, but if Casey was fired for his inability to get past LeBron James and the Cavs then Budenholzer might not be the perfect candidate, as the Hawks lead by Budenholzer were swept in the NBA playoffs in both 2015 and 2016 at the hands of the coach-killing Cavaliers.

3. Jerry Stackhouse

Photo taken from Slam

Jerry Stackhouse is a well known former NBA player who played 18 seasons in the league before transitioning very well as the Raptors 905 coach. He led them to a G-league championship in 2016 and to the finals in 2017.

Under the tutelage of Dwayne Casey, Stackhouse turned the Raptors 905 G-League into a power house team. But it may be that Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri isn’t keen on hiring a rookie head coach but, if the Raptors are looking for a new direction that involves building around the young players on the roster, then Stackhouse is a good option considering the relationships he has built with players Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanFleet.

Numerous reports hint that the Detroit Pistons are seriously considering Stackhouse to be their next head coach. The 6-foot-6 former forward played four seasons in Detroit could be a good fit for the Pistons.

4. Becky Hammon

Photo taken from Business Insider

The Raptors last candidate for the head coaching position is probably the most interesting.

Hammon is regarded as one of the WNBA’s all time greatest players. Her experiences are vast and her credentials make her just as qualified as any other candidate.

Playing in both the WNBA and in Europe for 15 years, Hammon is a six time WNBA All Star and the WNBA’s all time assist leader. She is an Olympic gold medalist for Russia in 1998 and was inducted into the WNBA’s Ring of Honour as well as having her Number 25 retired by the San Antonio Stars.

Raptors’ Ujiri has been fairly outspoken about the role of women in the NBA moving forward. If Hammon is hired, she will be making history and paving the way for more women in professional sports.

The Raptors are currently leading the way for women in the NBA, with 11 working in their front office. Hammon would be a great asset to the organization, adding to the inclusive culture it is looking to build.

Ujiri attended an event hosted by Ryerson University’s Women in Leadership Association (WILA) in February. “We hire the best candidates for the best positions, period,” he said. She will be a force to be reckoned with if Hammon fits what Ujiri is looking to build in Toronto.

She currently serves as assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, while earning the same respect and credentials as current head coach Gregg Popovich.

Spurs power forward Pau Gasol wrote an open letter about Hammon on The Players’ Tribune earlier this week.

“Becky Hammon can coach,” he wrote. “I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

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