The Toronto Raptors haven’t even existed for three decades, yet they’ve already churned through nine different head coaches. While it’s easy to forget the hard times after the success of Dwane Casey and Nick Nurse, the path to regular postseason success was built on the back of decades of trial and error.
Toronto’s history is full of both genuine success, coaches who got a raw deal after being fired too soon, and mistakes that are better left buried in the annals of Raptors history.
This is the definitive ranking of the nine head coaches in Toronto Raptors history
9. Brendan Malone
Brendan Malone was not the coach of the Raptors for very long
Malone was the first coach in Raptors history, as Isiah Thomas, who assumed an executive role with the neophyte Raptors, named an assistant from Chuck Daly’s Bad Boys teams as the first head coach in team history, with Thomas citing his creativity in stopping Michael Jordan and creating exciting defenses.
Unfortunately, Malone was not given much time to implement his vision in Toronto, as he was fired after just one season, going 21-61. While winning 21 games isn’t something to be proud of, the Raptors were an expansion team, and Thomas might’ve been a bit impatient by expecting Malone to be a star right away. Malone was an interim coach in Cleveland briefly, and he was an assistant for almost two decades, but he never got another chance as a head coach after his one-year stint north of the border
8. Kevin O’Neill
Kevin O’Neill quickly wore out his welcome with the Raptors
O’Neill bounced around as a coach at both the pro and collegiate levels, as he was a head coach at Marquette, Tennessee, and Northwestern, with mixed success, before moving to the NBA as an assistant. The McGill graduate returned to Canada when he was named head coach in 2003, and he energized the fanbase by starting the season off at 25-25. Unfortunately, O’Neill would win just eight of his remaining 32 games.
O’Neill was fired shortly after the season, in part due to comments he made that questioned Toronto’s desire to build a winner. O’Neill went to the college ranks at Arizona, where he lost a power struggle against the late great Lute Olson. He followed that up by flaming out at USC. O’Neill might’ve been able to turn things around, but he only got one season to prove himself, and pointing the finger at management after going 8-24 to end the year is certainly not a good look for him.