Sergio Scariolo To Act As Raptors Head Coach vs. Rockets

The Toronto Raptors have named Sergio Scariolo as their acting head coach for Friday night's game against the Houston Rockets
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In some ways, the Toronto Raptors got lucky. 

It's weird to think that way considering head coach Nick Nurse, Pascal Siakam, and five assistant coaches will be sidelined for Friday night's game due to the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. It's unclear if there is a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization, just close contracts, or some inconclusive tests, but regardless things could have been a lot worse.

For one, Sergio Scariolo will act as the team's head coach against the Houston Rockets. Had Nurse and the other assistants been ruled out on Wednesday prior to the Miami Heat game, Scariolo wouldn't have been available. Instead, the 59-year-old acting head coach would have still been in quarantine having coached the Spanish national team overseas at the EuroBasketball qualifiers.

"He was in a FIBA bubble, which obviously is helpful for us and helpful for the NBA," Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said. "Then he returned and he passed the league protocols here, and able to be cleared today. But some of the timing of it was he, like everyone else here, did have to test negative today and clear today in order to coach tonight."

That's, as Webster added, quite convenient.

It's also pretty helpful Scariolo has a quarter-century of head coaching experience overseas and should have no trouble moving over a few spots and taking over head coaching duties for the first time in his NBA coaching career.

Then there's the fact that more players haven't been ruled out. Everyone else on the team received a negative test and was ruled eligible for the game by the NBA. 

"Yesterday being an off day was actually beneficial because there was nothing scheduled," Webster said. "So once this became an issue, there wasn't a ton of conversations about yesterday. It was more about the days prior. That's when you go back and think about actions and where people were."

For the most part, Raptors players were no in close contact with the coaching staff, Webster said. They stayed in their usual cohorts and there wasn't much, if any, intermingling between the groups.

There were discussions between the league offices about postponing and the game, but once the majority of the players received negative tests Toronto was cleared to play.

"With Sergio, I just joked with him that the last team he coached he was out in Poland and I said you should be ready for this," Webster said. "But you guys know his resume. I don't know how many hundreds or thousands of games he's been a head coach, but it's unique and he acknowledged that much as far as the NBA game and, obviously, under the circumstances. So look forward to it and I think it'll be a new challenge for him, but I think everybody's ready for it."

Unfortunately for Raptors fans, Kyle Lowry was never considered a viable coaching candidate due to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.

"I don't know if we have the budget to add that to his resume. I think there was probably some additional compensation," Webster joked.

"You can't really pay a player to do anything outside of his contract. I think, listen, we make jokes about it, but he does so much out on the court and he takes on a little bit bigger role. I've spoken to him a number of times, spoke to him this morning, put in his head, he knew this was a possibility. Obviously with Fred, as well. Those guys are in many ways the de facto coaches out there, so just trying to get it in their head as early as possible so they could think about it."

It's unclear how long the Siakam and the coaches will be out for. The team will continue to review protocols and everyone will undergo the unusual NBA testing in the coming days.

Further Reading

Costly turnovers plague Raptors in loss to the Heat

Fred VanVleet is one of the league's best pound for pound shot blockers and he hates it

The Raptors have accidentally found a lineup combination that's generating success