Pro basketball: Toronto Raptors fire coach of year Casey

May 12, 2018, 07:36
Pro basketball: Toronto Raptors fire coach of year Casey

It is a seminal moment for the Toronto Raptors franchise, but President Masai Ujiri believes that firing head coach Dwane Casey is the next step towards getting his team over the hump. All Casey did in seven seasons was win 57.3 percent of his games, rack up three consecutive 50-plus-win seasons and make the playoffs five straight times.

Even though the Raptors finished the regular season with the best record in franchise history, along with the first seed in the Eastern Conference, sports is a "What have you done for me lately" business.

The 61-year-old Casey was the most successful coach in Raptors history, rewriting the culture of what had been one of the worst teams in the league.

He had already said it was a hard decision, and when asked how he had broken the news, his answer showed how much Ujiri had struggled with this.

Toronto's president gave little indication a new hire to replace the popular Casey would come quickly. He thanked us. He appreciated his time here.

"We're not saying this roster is flawless", he said.

One thing is for sure, the Coach of the Year speech from Casey is going to be an awkward one but he will probably handle it with class like he has done throughout his time with the organization.

After Toronto's playoff exit last spring, Ujiri demanded a "culture reset", leading a greater emphasis on ball movement, depth, and 3-point shooting. A police officer can say "you are speeding", or can say "you are travelling at a speed beyond the posted limited", and the point is the same, if the former is a bit more blunt. Toronto is obviously getting sick and exhausted of losing playoff games to the one team that always beats them, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The move also came just two days after Casey had faced the media and defended himself and his record. It doesn't seem particularly fair, not when the Raptors' biggest problem in recent seasons has been running smack into the impenetrable force that is LeBron James, but it's also not surprising given Ujiri's lack of options.

"We've kind of lost the same way from a few years ago to today, the third time (against Cleveland)", Ujiri said. We really do appreciate it and honestly, in some instances I think of this as, in some way, a celebration. But the National Basketball Association is a star-driven league, and while LeBron rose to the occasion, the Raptors top players faded at the worst times during the second round series.

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens expressed disappointment in Friday's announcement, saying Casey is "a role model for a lot of coaches when you think about how his great players got better, played great". On Friday, Ujiri said he wants his new coach to continue that style moving forward.

"I'm open. We'll look everywhere", Ujiri said, adding the current group of assistants will remain for now.