Jordi Fernandez could be the culture reset the Raptors need

Amit Mann is joined by Toni Canyameras to discuss Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez who is reportedly in the running for the head coaching position with the Toronto Raptors.

Video Transcript

TONI CANYAMERAS: You saw the video when Kings came here in Toronto in December, and they won. When Jordi Fernandez went into the locker room, I mean, the players showered him with champagne. And I mean, when the players have a reaction like that with a coach, I think that it's pretty meaningful about how the players loves the coach-- a coach.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. And you got Michael Malone, from his past, saying that he will one day be a head coach in the league.


AMIT MANN: Mike Brown, as you mentioned, has also said that he could be ready right now, I believe for the Atlanta job that eventually went to Quin Snyder. He was in the running for it. And Mike Brown, leading into it, had only good things to say about Jordi, saying he deserves this, and it's going to come. And, you know, aside from basketball, you want this for good people. And Jordi is a good person.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Yeah, of course.

AMIT MANN: So with Jordi, then, I mean, he's worked with a lot of different players. I recall there was a situation with Keegan Murray this past season during Summer League, where the first play of the first game, he had asked Keegan, you know, where do you like the ball? Where do you want to score from? And he said the left corner.

And the first play of the first Summer League game for the Kings, he designed a play for Keegan Murray. It was like a double drag play where he was supposed to flare out to the baseline for a wide open 3. And the play worked, and he hit it. It's like, things like that, and also looking at some of the games that he did coach in the NBA. One of them was a loss. And afterwards, he was saying that I have to do a better job of making sure I'm preparing these guys, and giving them a chance to succeed. It was essentially what he was saying.

So he's accountable. And it's all about what can I do to help them, how can I help these players win the game? And I think that's really valuable. It's like that player-coach communication that he seems to really excel at.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: In terms of basketball style, he's the defensive specialist in the Sacramento Kings.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: I remember when Kings came here, I asked Domantas Sabonis about Jordi. And he insists-- has a lot of defense. He pays a lot of attention to all the defensive details. And in terms of basketball style, I mean, I think that Jordi Fernandez, I think, fits with the Raptors' games, with the Raptors' identity because--


TONY CAMYAMERAS: --for example, this detail, the different players with handles is a thing that-- is a trait that defines the philosophy-- the Sacramento Kings' philosophy, right?


TONY CAMYAMERAS: Sabonis actually, for example, in the NBA, in the playoffs, one of the things that drew the attention the most from everybody was, like, Warriors, where they're letting Domantas Sabonis along in the elbow-- to put the focus in enticing the players that were coming of the screens.

Jordi, I mean, he's very focused in taking advantage from the centers with a very high basketball IQ, which is a thing that Raptors have. Jakob Poeltl, very high basketball IQ. So I think that Jordi Fernandez would be able to take advantage of it.

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Another thing, I mean, the tradition for example, because Sacramento Kings, they have no decision to-- because they have been a team that have-- they have played-- they have played really quick, attacking in the early possessions, very powerful in transitions. And at the same time, it's another identity trait that you can see in the Raptors. If I'm not wrong, these last seasons-- I mean, these-- the last season of Raptors hasn't been good.

But I mean, if I know Raptors, they have been the first team in scoring after forcing the turnovers.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: So, things like that, the handle, the fact of taking advantage of the centers with very high basketball IQ, the fact to be able to take advantage of the transitions. I mean that there are identity traits that fit with the Raptors' philosophy.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, definitely. And with someone like a Jakob Poeltl, a Scottie Barnes, too, also had a bit of a dribble handoff role before Jakob Poeltl arrived. You get excited about what Jordi Fernandez could do with those two, and how you could still tap into that, even more than they did last season. We only saw the early glimpses of this kind of process with Jakob Poeltl.

I mean, even he said you know that my role with the Raptors, different than the one with the Spurs. And it was much more offensively-oriented with the Spurs than it was with the Raptors. With the Raptors, it was more like he wasn't necessarily a hub for offense. He was-- at times he was, and him, and OG Anunoby, and some of those horns-- horns plays, the flex plays. They were able to find some chemistry.

But you want to see more of that. And--


AMIT MANN: --the difference between-- and the difference between the Raptors and Kings right now is, like, the Kings have a lot better shooters. And we hope that is addressed with the Raptors during the off season. But even still, player movement, ball movement has to get-- has to improve with whatever the Raptors' next iteration of the Raptors is. And also defensively, I mean, you-- we were talking about him being kind of the lead defensive coach for the Sacramento Kings.

And then we're like, well, going into the playoffs, their defense wasn't great. However, you get excited about how they're able to game plan against the Golden State Warriors, and how successful they were. They were pretty close to winning that series.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Yeah, very close.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, right? And defensively--


AMIT MANN: --they were able to-- I mean, Steph Curry is going to do Steph Curry things sometimes. But they were able to really take away some things from the Warriors, and they were that close, as I said. So you can see that he can game plan against the team. When it comes to a playoff series, he can make that happen. And then you add in some of his traits as an offensive coach, what his style is, in terms of his ability to get a team through a series. Then you get excited about that as well.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Sacramento Kings, they have not been among the best defensive teams in the league, actually.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: They have been the best offensive team in the regular season. Actually, they have recorded their highest offensive rating in the history.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: But they have not been the best team in the defensive end. But they have been among the best 10 teams defensively in the last quarter.

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: So I think that is a very, very interesting thing because for example, if you-- is an identity trait that defines the Denver Nuggets as well. The Nuggets, maybe they don't have the best defense in the NBA, but they know how to push harder in defense to win the game.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: And I think that is the thing that you have missed in the Raptors in the season, because Raptors-- Raptors, they have slowed down, especially in the last quarter. So--

AMIT MANN: They did.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: I think it's a very interesting detail. If you are able to push harder in the decisive moments of the game, in the clutch moments, I think that would be a very positive-- very positive things for Raptors.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, and having multiple ways to win games. Too much over this past season. It was, if they weren't able to get the stops, then things were going to go out the window, and they're probably going to lose the game. Fred VanVleet has said many times that, nowadays you probably have to be able to put up 120 points to be able to win NBA games.

Now, you don't want every game to be up there, but I think there is something to that, that you have to be able to win in different ways. Sometimes, if a game is 100 or 98 points, you've got to be able to win that. And it's a different kind of style which is required to win that game versus a game where it's in the 120s. And I think that's something that the Raptors have to kind of get better at is being able to win in multiple different ways.

And that's scheming, that's pace, that's flow. And also, it's being able to understand what is required at a certain juncture of a game. What kind of game is it, and how are we going to make sure we win that style of game? It can't always just be so focused in one way. You know? Who is Pep Guardiola?


AMIT MANN: Who is that?

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Guardiola-- because-- I don't know if someone is asking you about Guardiola. I tell you that Guardiola and Jordi Fernandez, they are close friends as well. They are close friends. Pep Guardiola obviously is the Manchester City coach. In my opinion, he's the best soccer coach in the world. I think-- if you like soccer, I think that right now it's pretty hard seeing other team that be so complete, so versatile as Manchester City. Very solid team.

And yes, Guardiola, as I said, they have a close relationship. Guardiola actually went to watch-- went to Cleveland towards the finals in 2016, the finals-- finals between Cleveland and Guardiola's-- because, as I've told before, Jordi Fernandez was part of this coaching staff there-- of the title coaching staff that won the ring in 2016.

We are talking about two different sports, like basketball and soccer. But I mean, Jordi Fernandez, he likes to take things from other sports. Like, for example, Guardiola is-- he has been a coach known for his curiosity to take other things from other sports, as chess, as even volleyball. For example, we've been talking now about Golden State Warriors. Steve Kerr, because he has always been a coach, has tried to learn things from other sports, actually.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: He has more-- one time he has mentioned the example of the boss of Guardiola because, in the sense that-- to be able to pass, pass, keep passing the ball, keep passing the ball until you are able to get the best look. These are philosophy. These are things that identifies Jordi Fernandez as well, this curiosity to learn things from another sports, yes.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. And Nick Nurse had this trade, too, where he was very creative, but it was more so on the defensive end that he got very creative. You know, remember box-and-one against Steph Curry? And also, the innovative defenses he's used to shut down star players. And there's a quote here from Malik Monk on some of the drills that Fernandez has made them do with the Kings.

And he said, "It's just random, and the game of basketball is random." He's like, "Yeah, man, I like Jordi."

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Yeah. I think that he was planning that, one day, to try to work out the deflections Jordi Fernandez put the players to others while he was throwing them tennis balls toward the quicker reactions to improve the deflections. And I think these are-- we are talking about the kind of drills that defined the creativity of your ideas as a coach.

During an NBA team, your teammates, the coaching staff, is your main family. You spend more time with them than with your family in the-- your real family, right? And it's very important to be innovative, to make the players have fun all the time-- yeah, to make that the players that don't feel that they are going through a very boring routine that did-- a lot of time, it's the main disadvantage, right?

That's when the players feel that they are in a kind of routine, and they are doing the same all the days. And yeah, it's a thing that can be tiring for the players, can burn them out.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. And you-- it's cool that Mike Brown and him, they formed this connection, like, many moons ago. It was like 15 years ago, and it just happened through-- I believe it was Jordi Fernandez was working at a basketball Academy, and Mike Brown's son was there, and he was intrigued by the drills he had some of the kids going through. And just right from there, that's where this started, the journey between Jordi Fernandez and Mike Brown.

Now, they've gone their separate ways at times. Mike Brown had a job with the Cavaliers. He got let go. As we mentioned, Jordi Fernandez, he ends up with the Denver Nuggets for a little while. But through all of that, they're back here together. And that kind of connection between two people in such a random kind of way, I think it speaks to the intrigue that there is with the Jordi Fernandez, and how he thinks differently. And Mike Brown has gravitated towards that, too.

Anything else on Jordi? Because, I mean, he seems like-- you think about the defensive side of things, there's innovation. There's offensive innovation. He's a player-coach. He's accountable for his own actions. And obviously, players nowaday, they appreciate that he can talk to players, he can talk to the media.

Is there anything else we're missing? He seems like a great candidate.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: First of all, he was running-- [INAUDIBLE] is considered the birthplace of basketball, not just in Spain, but also even in Europe. Actually, player-- Spanish NBA players like Ricky Rubio, like Rudy Fernández, that-- we had Rudy Fernández. He was playing in the NBA a few years.

And Rudy and Ricky, they were raised in [INAUDIBLE] And he went to-- he was learning in a city of basketball, the-- first of all. But after that, I mean, he has been a very adventurous man, a very daring, very exciting guy. Because in 2003, when he was 20, he went to the Netherlands. He started to-- he started working washing dishes.

He didn't even know any single words in English, and he was able to learn the English by his own. And from that point, I mean, he was able to learn English. He worked as a teacher in-- as a university teacher in the Netherlands, in Norway as well. Because, as I mentioned before, he has a doctorate in psychology.

In Spain, he studied a degree in physical education. And, well, he's journeying to USA starting-- I think starting in 2007 because he went he went to the Impact Basketball Academy to work with Mike Brown from 2007. I mean, nobody was paying him for anything.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: And then in 2009, I mean, Mike Brown was impressed about how-- about the capability of Jordi Fernandez, of working with the details. He was impressed with Jordi-- with the passion of Jordi Fernandez and Mike Brown, and told him, Jordi, come to Cleveland one week. And it was like a testing week for him.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: And yeah, and the organization of Cleveland Cavaliers was impressed with the capability of Jordi Fernandez to work with the players, to pay attention to the details. And yeah, he has a-- that was the start of all.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, definitely. And his grind through his NBA journey, coming to North America, and then just like building, and slowly building his way to the coach he is now, and the wealth of experience working with those Cavaliers, the Nikola Jokics's, Denver Nuggets, and now going to his role with the Sacramento Kings, like, he's gone through the mud, so to speak, to get to where he is now. And Masai Ujiri has talked so much about wanting to restore the culture around the Toronto Raptors.


AMIT MANN: He's a culture fit, right? Just from his point that he had to go through so much to get to where he is now. And that's what Chris Boucher has mentioned on Hustle Play, is like we have to get back to put get our lunch pail, put our hard hat on, and get back into the gym, and making things work. And Jordi Fernandez, he gets an opportunity like this. I don't think he's going to mess it up. I'll put it that way.

TONY CAMYAMERAS: Toronto is a very cultural-- very multicultural city, a very open-minded city.


TONY CAMYAMERAS: So I think if you are able to make a bet on a European coach, I think that it would be a good thing. I think that it's a thing that fits with the Toronto philosophy, with the Raptors' philosophy.