Sadly; Darko Rajakovic lost his job after monday finals

Darko Rajakovic learned a lot in time with Spurs, Popovich, it just didn’t carry over to Monday’s rout

When Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic got his first taste of the NBA about 20 years ago, he had the good fortune of hanging around the San Antonio Spurs, one of the premier franchises in the league.

Rajakovic spent 10 summers either consulting or acting as an assistant coach at NBA Summer League for the Spurs, who he took on for the second time as a head coach on Monday night in Toronto.

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Rajakovic would go on to become the first European-born NBA G League (then D-League) head coach and an assistant with three NBA franchises before getting the Toronto job, and looks back fondly on his Spurs connection.

“My time with San Antonio definitely made a big mark on my coaching style and my work ethic and especially the way I treat people,” Rajakovic said before his Raptors got throttled by the Spurs in their worst performance of his tenure.

“Since the first day when I walk into Spurs gym, I’ll remember forever, coach (Gregg Popovich, the all-time wins leader and winner of five NBA titles) came right away to introduce himself and talk to me. I was nobody, which pretty much is the same today but … when that kind of man comes to you and treats you like equal, that set a tone definitely for me,” Rajakovic said.

“And my time in San Antonio, for 10 years with them, it really helped me learn what it takes to win on the highest level and what kind of work youA need to put in day in and day out. And how much you need to be focussed on process and not really the outcome,” he said.


Rajakovic told a story of how Popovich waited years before deciding to fully unleash the magnificent guard Manu Ginobili one year at training camp. It stuck with him.


“I do believe that there has to be a fine balance of demanding and teaching and coaching while allowing players to be themselves. That’s a fine line that you’ve got to walk,” he said.


Rajakovic is being tasked with adjusting on the fly in Year 1 as an NBA head coach because the Raptors traded away a number of their top players and are now retooling. Popovich was asked by Postmedia about that challenge for Rajakovic, and it seems the coach who has seen it all isn’t too worried about how Rajakovic will handle things.

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