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Raptors draw big prospects Add to ...

As a team that could potentially lose four big men in the off-season, it seems natural Thursday's predraft workout - featuring a swath of interior players that might be available when the Toronto Raptors use the No. 13 pick in the upcoming NBA draft - would be deemed significant.

But the one new face in the gym certain to be with the club next season can't even play.

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Thursday marked P.J. Carlesimo's first official duties as an assistant coach with the Raptors. The veteran bench manager was hired this week to add depth to head coach Jay Triano's staff.

The two men have known each other for nearly 30 years, dating back to Carlesimo coaching in the Puerto Rican summer leagues when Triano was a star with Jack Donahue's Canadian national teams.

After his first full year as a head coach in the NBA, Triano acknowledged he spent too much of his energy on game planning and strategy, and perhaps not enough on building relationships with players and keeping the pulse of the locker room.

Carlesimo, who has been a head coach in Portland, Golden State and Seattle, and was a three-time NBA champion as Gregg Popovich's right-hand man with the San Antonio Spurs, says it's his goal to free Triano up to see more than the lines on a clipboard.

"I learned a ton from Pop, and he's one of those coaches that understands it's about the players and his relationship with the players and how he handled them allowed him to coach them," Carlesimo said after watching a quartet of big men - Cole Aldrich (University of Kansas), Daniel Orton (Kentucky), Ekpe Udoh (Baylor) and Larry Sanders (Virginia Commonwealth) - wrestle in the paint as the Raptors front office and coaching staff looked on.

"[Popovich]was extremely knowledgeable and all of those kinds of things, but what I liked about him was he didn't take himself too seriously and he demanded people work hard and together."

Carlesimo says Triano told him in the job interview that he wanted to be challenged in his thinking in meetings and on the bench - something Carlesimo is likely well-suited for.

That he's too nice is a criticism lobbed at Triano from a distance. Carlesimo - most famous for being choked in practice by former NBA all-star Latrell Sprewell - says it's actually a strength Triano should leverage.

"He has the ability to be demanding, but at the same time not aggravate guys, which was something I was never particularly good at. … I just think as assistant coaches the more you can take off the head coach's plate, the better it is. And if you can throw ideas at them, that's a plus."

While the coaching staff is in place - Carlesimo joins incumbents Marc Iavaroni, Alex English, Micah Nori and Eric Hughes - the question remains who they'll be coaching.

Among the Raptors' big men, Chris Bosh's future is in flux, Amir Johnson is a free agent, indications are Rasho Nesterovic may be elsewhere, while Toronto would certainly be open to moving Reggie Evans, who is in the final year of his contract.

Thursday's audition attracted a mixed bag of replacement candidates, from young, huge but unproven Orton to Aldrich, a more experience big man but one who comes with a jump shot that resembles a child's soccer throw-in (even Aldrich described it as "un-normal") - in other words, perhaps some players that can help a team, but no saviours.

Chances are it will be up to Triano - and Carlesimo - to coach up what they've got.

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