Dwane Casey

The Toronto Raptors fired Dwane Casey today. He had been their head coach for the last seven seasons and is one of the reasons why the Raptors were able to climb out of obscurity and become one of the best teams in the NBA.

This season, he lead the Raptors to a 59-23 record – the best in franchise history.

Did he deserve to be fired? No.

Was it something they had to do? Probably.

It’s like when contestants get sent home on The Bachelor. Do they deserve it? Not necessarily. But you can’t give a rose to everyone, so…

When Casey first got to Toronto, he was heralded as the defensive guru who was able to slow down LeBron in the NBA Finals, allowing the Dallas Mavericks to win the championship.

He inherited a Raptors team that didn’t have an identity. They were caught in the middle of trying to be the second coming of the San Antonio Spurs via a bevy of international players, and a team that wanted to do something else.

There was no star. DeMar DeRozan was entering his third season in the NBA and the jury was still out on whether or not he’d ever become a franchise player.

Casey didn’t have much to work with, but his mantra was, “Pound The Rock”. During his entire tenure here, a commercial has run on NBA TV Canada with a sound byte that says, “Pound the rock to get better.”

The idea being, if you chip away at the rock every day, you’ll break it eventually.

I’ll save you the story, but a few years later, the Raptors made the playoffs. They lost in the first round, but hey, they made it.

Fast forward to the last three seasons – LeBron James has knocked the Raptors out each year. They have 2 wins in 14 playoff games against LeBron.

Last year’s disappointment ushered in the need for a “culture reset”. It’s all we heard about. The Raptors were going to change their style of play, rely on Lowry and DeRozan less, and this would hopefully catapult the team passed LeBron and friends.

It didn’t.

Same song different chorus.

So now what?

What I’ve noticed from fans over the years, is that they’ve been calling for Casey to be fired after almost every season, sometimes during the season. They’ve been questioning him and doubting his methods. Everything.

And now that the Raptors have let him go, the majority of fans are saying we should’ve kept him and gotten rid of the players who clearly looked scared of the Cavaliers.

I’d also like to point out that fans have wanted Jonas Valanciunas to be shipped out of town for the last several years, and yet he developed into pretty good centre this season.

Sometimes all you need is time. Time to get better. Time to correct mistakes. Time to grow up.

I think something needed to be done after getting swept by the Cavaliers this year. I like Dwane Casey, but you’re not going to blow up the team and the GM & President aren’t going anywhere, so naturally, the coach is the one to go.

It’s not fair; it’s sports.

I don’t think the Raptors could start training camp next year with the same core and the same coach, and look at each other with confidence that the end result of their season would be any different than the previous three years.

If a change were to be made, it had to be now.

DeRozan, Lowry, Ibaka, and Valanciunas, all have two years left on their contracts. If you bring in a new coach now, at least they have two years with these players to see if they can make something happen.

That being said, I’m not convinced all four of those players will be here on Opening Night this fall, so we’ll see.

But do you understand where I’m coming from? If they were to fire Casey after next season, they’d bring in a new coach while the core of the team is entering the final year of their contract. That’s not fair to anyone.

The Raptors are still a young team. The bench that carried them through the season was thrown into the fire of the playoffs for the first time. If anything, this year was supposed to be a learning experience, but the expectations were set so high that not many realize that we were ahead of schedule.

During the season, the Raptors were beating up on teams to the point where their starters didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter.

On one hand, people were saying how great it was. How the extra rest would come in handy during the playoffs, while the bench could get some valuable minutes on the court.

Yes, that’s great.

On the flip side, I was always worried that the Raptors wouldn’t be battle tested going into the playoffs. That they wouldn’t know how to handle certain situations in crunch time down the stretch of games.

For years, I haven’t seen this team be able to execute plays in the final moments of a fourth quarter. They’d always end up with a questionable shot, or just clear out and have DeRozan shoot a jump shot.

I’ve never been confident that with 45 seconds left on the clock, and the Raptors down 2 or 3, that they’d actually come back and win the game.

I don’t know what the stats are on that, but from my naked eye, this team wasn’t battle tested in crunch time.

And for everything that Casey did well, I still have no idea why he played his regulars in the final game of the season against Miami. The game was absolutely pointless.

Sure, if they won, they’d have 60 wins.

But why are we chasing 60 wins, when health is the most important thing at that moment?

Fred VanVleet injured his shoulder in that game and was never himself in the playoffs. I’m not saying a healthy Fred VanVleet takes us passed LeBron, but maybe he hits one of those two open three pointers at the end of Game 1.

I don’t know.

It saddens me that it took Casey until Game 3 to figure out a proper rotation against the Cavaliers. I understand his loyalty to the bench that had been so successful during the season, but this is the playoffs.

I thought he was too slow to adapt and too reluctant to play the style the Cavaliers were playing. There was no reason why C.J. Miles or DeMar DeRozan should’ve been defending Kevin Love.

Now, are any of those reasons why Casey should be fired? Absolutely not. Those are merely observations I’ve had as a fan.

The NBA is a superstar driven league. Is Kyle Lowry a superstar? I wouldn’t put him in that category. He’s not a Chris Paul or a Russell Westbrook. Those two haven’t had much team success either, but their individual talent makes them a superstar.

Lowry is a really good player. That’s all.

What is DeMar DeRozan? I don’t think he’s a superstar, either. He’s another really good player – great, even. He’s got an immense amount of talent, but he has a reputation of disappearing in the playoffs.

I find that he sometimes plays in slow motion and is a bit too slow to react on offence. On defence, he needs to improve. I’m not saying he needs to become the defensive player of the year, but he needs to not look like a turnstile on the floor.

During the regular season, we’d hide him against the opponent’s weaker players. In the playoffs, there was nowhere to hide.

It says a lot when the only two players this team trusted to “guard” (I put guard in quotation marks because no one can defend LeBron) LeBron James is a 20-year-old rookie (OG Anunoby) and a 24-year-old sophomore who only started playing basketball when he was 17 (Pascal Siakam).

I think the sky is the limit for Anunoby. I think he has the tools, demeanour, and mindset to become a superstar in the NBA. I don’t know how big a leap he takes next season, but I’m anticipating a big one.

And maybe that’s all this team needs – their young players to take the next step in their careers.

Something had to be done after the result of this season, and I’m sure ownership probably demanded something more than a “culture reset” be the solution.

So, Dwane Casey is out.

As for his replacement, I’d love to see Jerry Stackhouse get the chance. He’s been the Head Coach of the Raptors 905 for the last two years and is the main reason why our “Bench Mob” was so good this season.

But he’d be a first time Head Coach in the NBA and that might be too risky, and too hard to sell to the fans.

Another option is Assistant Coach, Nick Nurse. My only reservation about that is it wouldn’t be that much of a change from Casey, at which point I would wonder, why not just keep Casey?

Mike Budenholzer has also been floated around as a candidate. He used to coach the Atlanta Hawks before they overreacted to getting swept by LeBron twice, inadvertently blew up the roster, and descended to the bottom of the standings.

They are the cautionary tale of what not to do when you get your heart ripped out of your chest by LeBron.

I’m not convinced a new coach, alone, will take the Raptors to the next level. This is also on the players. They didn’t show up for Game 2 and Game 4.

If the players don’t step up next season and show no fear when going against LeBron, we’re going to be back in this same position.

I’m hopeful that Casey gets another Head Coaching job soon – I think he will.

As for the Raptors, it’s sure to be an interesting off-season.

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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6 Responses to Dwane Casey

  1. Dutch Lion says:

    Excellent work Paul. This column brought back many flashbacks for me as a Bulls fan. Two years in a row we had the best record in the league (2011 & ’12). We entered the playoffs with the #1 seed those two years and lost to LeBron at least 3 times (2010, 2011, and 2014). Our best team was in 2011 when Derrick Rose was MVP. In ’12 he got hurt in Game 1 and we lost to Philadelphia. In ’13 Rose was out all season. That sucked. In ’14 we lost in the 2nd round to LeBron again. It was extremely frustrating. In Cleveland’s case, they owed it to us for all the times we beat them in the 80s/90s with Jordan. The road to heartbreak can be paved with revenge. (I’m not sure that makes sense but I felt like writing it.)

    Anyway, back to Toronto and Dwayne Casey. He won Coach of the Year, right! I obviously don’t know the team like you do but I was really disappointed by the Raptors getting swept. It felt like they were down and out after that heartbreaking Game 1 loss. I’ve been there and seen that before, several times unfortunately.

    I can’t say whether the Raptors made the right call, but I understand the heartache causing your franchise to make drastic, controversial moves. Let’s face it. We’ll all be better off when LeBron retires, or at least moves to the Western Conference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I truly believe that Bulls teams deserved better, but that Rose injury threw it all off and everyone slowly departed.

      Yeah Casey won the Coach of the Year award that’s voted on by his fellow coaches. I thought it was convenient timing that they announced it the day after we were eliminated. Probably in an attempt to help save his job.

      I knew as soon as we lost Game 1 that it was over. Our team is too young and still a bit fragile in the mental toughness department. Here’s hoping this helps them going forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sportsattitudes says:

    When you fire a coach after a season like that I’m thinking two things…1) there is no taste yet for blowing up the team and, 2) if they don’t advance much deeper into the post season next year the nuclear option may be chosen then. I also think it is a mental toughness issue…not lacking courage, but confidence. LeBron-itis. Still, the Coach feels the sword. We’re at the point where a guy can be a Coach of the Year and still get fired…and it doesn’t surprise anyone. I don’t know that that is a good thing, but it sounds like many folks in Toronto were ok on the decision to move from Casey…even though the belief is it won’t be enough on its own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Well said. It was weird…a lot of fans didn’t agree with the move to fire him, yet any other year they would have. I think it’s because the players just looked so scared (except Anunoby) going up against LeBron that we all knew that Casey wasn’t the issue. That being said, our team was a lot younger and inexperienced than most people gave us credit for. But at the end of the day, the NBA is a star league. Lowry and DeRozan aren’t enough, especially in this division. The 76ers and Celtics are going to be better than us sooner than later.

      Liked by 1 person

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