The most important quotes from Darko Rajakovic's introductory presser with Raptors

Here are notable comments from the introductory press conference of the new head coach of the Toronto Raptors, Darko Rajakovic.

Video Transcript

- --you see as your strengths as a coach. And what are areas that you're looking to improve as you take over here?

DARKO RAJAKOVIC: I see-- I see my love and the passion for game and my commitment to the team as my biggest strength. This is not about me. This is about those guys. This is about the team, how we're going to get to the next level. My goal is not to get one player better but all 17 players in the roster, how we can improve those guys and help those guys.

So-- so my core belief is, when you improve players, like, that it's much easier to put strategies and tactics in. And that's going to give you a result. That's going to be your outcome. So I always operate like that. For me, season does not start in October. For me, season start-- started three days ago when I was appointed here as the head coach.

And I'm trying to win every single day. When we come in our practice facility on the board, we have a win for every day. And we need to win every day. It's not just about winning a game. It's about winning. Like, is the line going to cut a little bit better? Is-- are we going to move the ball a little bit better?

Are we going to be more together and more team? The more we have that, the better we are going to be. And-- and that's going to make all of us proud of our team.

VIVEK JACOB: Hey, Darko, Vivek Jacob, Congratulations.


VIVEK JACOB: You mentioned the importance of building that relationship with the players. What do you feel are the keys to connecting with your players on a human level?

DARKO RAJAKOVIC: First of all, I want to be very invested in them as human beings. And I see as every player as is a person with a family, with all of what's going on in their lives. I want those guys to know and to feel that I really care about them. And I really want to connect-- connect with those guys on a personal level.

When they know how much I love them and care about them, I have a strong belief that we're going to come together as a group and be ready to take it to another level. I started really to get to know each other through the process, but there was always admiration on my side for what Masai and Bobby and Larry did with the team and how much passion and commitment they have to run the things the right way.

The first time they started talking on a Zoom call, what I felt from day one was like unity. And everybody in the organization, you could just feel that everybody's together. And the very next conversation we had. I was blown away. Like, when I flew over here to meet them in person, I needed to pinch myself.

Like, to be in the presence of the best president and the best GM and the best ownership in the league is a huge, huge privilege. And I'm just blown away from every day what I'm learning about the organization and the team. I just told Masai, like, last three days, I had a smile on my face so much that my jaw started to hurt. So I'm really, really happy to be here.

MASAI UJIRI: We haven't told him the bad parts yet.


DARKO RAJAKOVIC: This means the world to me. Means so much to Serbian community here in Toronto. A lot of people reached out to me. It means a lot to family back home and the whole basketball community in Serbia. I started coaching when I was 16 years old.

And now, some 27 years later, I'm appointed to be a head coach of unbelievable organization and to have a chance to live in an amazing city like Toronto is. And I'm just proud to be over here today and to represent.

-- Excellent, excellent. Thank you, Darko. We'll now take questions from members of the media. If you have a question, please raise your hand. And a microphone will be brought to you. Please introduce yourself by stating your name and your organization.

DOUG SMITH: Darko, it's Doug Smith of the "Toronto Star" at your left here. Obviously, in 27 years as a head coach, you would have worked for very different kinds of people. How would you-- how would you describe your coaching philosophy and how you've grown as a man that you've become now at 44?

DARKO RAJAKOVIC: Since the day I started coaching, for me, the biggest thing that I enjoyed is seeing players get better, players improve. You're going to win games. You're going to lose games. Definitely, we want to win every single game every single night.

But seeing the team grow seeing the players grow seeing a people in whole organization grow is something that always was my biggest reward. And that's how I operate. I'm trying to wake up every single day with that on my mind. How can I help? How can I serve? How can I improve everybody in the organization?

- What are your impressions of the roster as it is that you are going to be coaching? And what are some of the strengths that you're looking to highlight with that roster?

DARKO RAJAKOVIC: I really like the roster, the way it's built. Every single day, I'm getting to know those guys more as a player and as a people. I think that Masai and Bobby and everybody did a tremendous job over the years. And they proved that they have an amazing talent to recognize the right people and the right fits. And I'm really, really excited to get to work with those guys.

- Just a couple of months ago, Mr. Ujiri spoke passionately about the importance of culture on this basketball team. I'm curious what kind of culture do you want to bring to the Raptors.

DARKO RAJAKOVIC: The most important thing for me is that it's going to be a shared vision. Knowing the team, talking to Masai, talking to Bobby, talking to Larry, we really want to have an amazing group of people working together. Like, that's-- and that's something that's off the court but also on the court.

For me, culture starts with your daily commitment to yourself and your team. And that starts with me, starts with players, starts with everybody in organization. And that unity and that trust that we're going to have between us, for me, is everything.

SAMSON FOLK: Hey, Darko, Samson Folk, "Raptors Republic." Congratulations. Welcome to Canada. So this is a little bit more of a basketball encore question. I commend you on the conversations you've had publicly about implementing offense and talking about basketball for public consumption. Not that much of it has covered defense.

What are some of the defensive principles that you have in mind for this team that can be acted by the players on the roster?

DARKO RAJAKOVIC: Right, defensively, I think that one of the strengths of this team is the length that we have on the team and ability to do so many things, from switching, from different coverages on the ball and off of the ball. For me, everything defensively starts with protecting the paint. If you protect the paint, after that, we're going to take away quarter 3s, and we're going to have late contested wing 3s.

We can get in Xs and Os/. And I can draw you our schemes when we get a chance. I would love to do that. But I'm really looking forward to talk with our guys as well and see their comfort level with all of these things. All decisions that I'm going to be making, I'm going to consult with the players and people in organization, with my coaching staff. So don't worry. We're going to get really good defense.