The Toronto Raptors announced on June 21 that Dwane Casey, former assistant coach with the NBA-championship winning Dallas Mavericks, is the club’s new head coach. Casey was named the new boss just nine days after the Mavericks wrapped up the NBA title over the Miami Heat in six games.
Casey takes over from Jay Triano, who was let go when the season ended after leading Toronto to a dismal 20-62 record. However, Triano was handed a consultants job with the club after being relieved from his coaching duties. The 54-year-old Casey has some head coaching experience in the league as he led the Minnesota Timberwolves to a record of 43-59 between June 2005 and January 2007.
The new coach said he wants to improve the Raptors defense as soon as possible and has mentioned he wants to introduce an ice hockey style of defense. He said the Mavericks did so well against Miami because the club studied NHL videos to get some aggressive defensive ideas.
Casey admitted that he doesn’t know too much about hockey, but feels he’ll be able to learn quickly about the game and wants his players to play with a rough and tumble attitude and a bad disposition when defending.
He’ll also need to do some work with the offense too as the Raptors are a poor team in all areas of the court. They missed the playoffs for the third straight year this past season and have advanced past the first round of the NBAs playoffs just once in the club’s 16-year history, which was a decade ago back in 2000-01. He said he’s going to take a hands-on approach to the defense, but will give them some freedom when it comes to the offense.
The Raptors can start their improvement process as early as June 23 when they enter the NBA draft with the fifth-overall selection. However, Casey won’t have much say in who the club chooses with the pick. He also believes it’s the job of the scouts anyway and the coach should only have so much input.
Casey, who was also an assistant coach with Seattle for 11 years, is now the eighth coach in Toronto’s history. He said he’ll consult with Triano on some issues and hopes to build around the team’s core players of Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Andrea Bargnani.
Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors general manager, said Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle called him after Dallas won the championship and told him Casey was the right man to lead the Raptors. After thinking about it for just over a week Colangelo agreed and Casey was hired.
It won’t be hard to improve on last season’s record, but Raptors fans are growing impatient with the general ineptitude of the organization and more and more empty seats can be seen at their home games as the seasons wear on. Casey will have a lot of pressure heaped on him right from the get-go and he’ll need to get off to a good start next season to keep the wolves at bay.