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Just when the Raptors thought their coaching staff was finally safe from poaching, the league chose to pluck from their coaching tree once again.
Anthony Slater of The Athletic has reported that the Raptors will be losing Jama Mahlalela this summer, who will be moving on to join the Golden State Warriors as a player development coach.
Mahlalela’s departure now marks the fourth Raptors assistant coach to leave the team in a little over eight months, as Nick Nurse has slowly been losing staff one by one. Nate Bjorkgren was hired as head coach of the Indiana Pacers in October of 2020, Chris Finch was poached by the Minnesota Timberwolves to be their head coach in a surprising mid-season move, and Sergio Scariolo opted to move back home to Italy, taking a job as coach of Virtus Bologna.
Mahlalela, 41, was born in Swaziland before relocating to Canada at a young age. He began his basketball coaching career as an assistant for the University of Toronto men’s basketball team, where he coached from 2004 to 2008. Beginning in 2006, he also served as a community development coach with Toronto Raptors-affiliated programs, leading youth development camps across Canada and heading up the Toronto Raptors Basketball Academy.
After a brief stint overseeing NBA development operations in Asia, Mahlalela was hired as an assistant coach by then-Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, primarily serving in a player development coaching role. He worked extensively behind the scenes with Dwane Casey to develop what was a young and inexperienced Raptors roster at the time.
He was briefly assigned to be the head coach of the Raptors 905 for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 G League seasons, leading the 905 to a 51-42 record in his two seasons, with one playoff series win. After the conclusion of each season, Mahlalela returned to the Raptors’ bench to assist Nurse, and was part of the 2019 championship coaching staff. He eventually rejoined the Raptors as a full-time assistant coach prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, handing the 905 coaching duties over to Patrick Mutombo.
He joins the Golden State Warriors as they look to develop a new crop of talent to support superstars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors currently hold the seventh and fourteenth overall picks in the 2021 NBA Draft, adding to young talent that also includes sophomore big man James Wiseman, who was selected second overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Mahlalela gradually worked his way up in the coaching ranks and is credited with working with many of Toronto’s young players over the seasons, such as Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell, among others. He has long been considered by his peers as patient, hard-working, and a natural leader, and was critical in developing the Raptors’ young assets that allowed them to build a championship roster.
Mahlalela has played a significant role in forging what is now widely considered one of the top basketball development programs in the league, and figures to have a significant hand in shaping the future of the Warriors organization as well.