TORONTO — Luke Walton decided that he wanted Canadian Roy Rana on his staff shortly after meeting the longtime Ryerson head coach over the summer.
A handful of games into the season, the Sacramento Kings head coach is pleased with what Rana is bringing to his team.
"His views and his philosophy on what coaching is all about — X's and O's (are) great, but it's more about getting to connect to players," Walton said Wednesday before Sacramento played the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.
Rana was hired by the Kings in June as the NBA team's chief of staff and assistant coach following a decade with the Ryerson Rams basketball team.
Walton, who was hired by Sacramento in April to replace the fired Dave Joerger, said he had heard praise for Rana from people across the basketball landscape while looking to fill out his coaching staff, so he flew the U Sports coach out to Sacramento for a face-to-face meeting.
"I really liked his mind and his energy," Walton said of what impressed him in that meeting. "The way he approached coaching was very uplifting, so it felt like a good fit."
The 50-year-old Rana joined Ryerson in 2009 and led the Toronto university team to six appearances at the national championship tournament, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018.
The Toronto-raised Rana also has extensive experience with Canada's national program, coaching a team led by 2019 No. 2 overall draft pick R.J. Barrett to gold at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup, the first world title for the nation at any level.
Walton said he was impressed with Rana's accomplishments, both at the university level and internationally.
"You look at Canada, it's huge what they're doing in basketball right now, Walton said. "Even (Toronto) winning the NBA title this past year and the influence their youth program is having, the amount of players in the NBA, (Rana) has been a part of that.
"He's seen it happen and he comes from this area."
Sacramento got off to a slow start this season, dropping its first five games of Walton's tenure. But the Kings came into Wednesday as winners of two straight.
Walton said Rana's positive coaching style was helpful over their mini slump.
"It doesn't matter what's going on, wins or losses, that positive energy is what we bring every day," Walton said. "I've said it in getting off to a slow start, our players have been working every day, they're doing what we ask, they're getting better and as a coaching staff it's our job to provide the type of environment that can continue to be healthy and turn them into better players.
"So I believe by being positive and having the energy is a way to do that."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2019.
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press