The Toronto Raptors created an awkward scene on social media Wednesday evening shortly after the NBA announced the finalists for its Coach of the Year Award.
Last week, the Raptors relieved Dwane Casey of his duties as the franchise’s head coach after the team was eliminated from this year’s playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Because of that, it was a bit odd to see the Raptors congratulate Casey on being announced as a finalist for NBA Coach of the Year.
There were behind-the-scenes hints that Dwane Casey’s job as coach of the Toronto Raptors was in jeopardy, according to reports.
According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri was furious after LeBron James’s game-winning bank shot in Game 3, particularly Casey’s decision to not double-team James on the final possession, as well as the team’s general lack of execution on the play.
Ujiri reportedly stormed into the Toronto locker room and berated Casey in his office for the lack of a double-team, within earshot of the players. While the general manager is said to have a temper, the outburst was described as “more than typical.”
There may have been other factors at play, but it certainly sounds like Ujiri had had it with Casey’s game management. To those on the inside, it doesn’t sound like Casey’s firing came as a huge surprise.
More details are emerging about the circumstances that may have led to the firing of Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports reports that Casey, who was let go Friday by the Raptors after leading them to the winningest season in franchise history, sought a contract extension in the hopes of maintaining job security. That, in turn, may have forced GM Masai Ujiri’s hand in firing him, Zillgitt says.
Casey, who had one more year left on his deal, had coached the Raptors since 2011 and went 320-238 (.573) with five playoff berths in his seven seasons at the helm. The 2017-18 campaign was particularly stellar as Toronto won a team-record 59 games and earned the No. 1 seed in the East. However, they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, marking the third straight year that their season ended at the hands of the Cavs.
Casey’s track record of success obviously speaks for itself, especially with a roster where Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were his best players. But his playoff shortcomings combined with this supposed desire for an extension may have meant that it was no longer advantageous for Toronto to keep him around, particularly with a number of quality replacements to choose from.
The Raptors have won four of the last five Atlantic Division titles, but their playoff record under Casey is 21-30. They’ve won over 50 games in each of the last three seasons, but each time, the Cavaliers knocked the team out of the playoffs, including a sweep in this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals despite Toronto posting a franchise-record 59 wins, a full nine games better than Cleveland during the regular season. The Raptors obviously felt that a change was necessary to get past that roadblock.
If the Toronto Raptors are exploring the possibility of moving on from Dwane Casey this offseason, they have apparently not had any discussions with the head coach about it.
During his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday, Casey told reporters he has spoken with team president Masai Ujiri since Toronto was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he was not given any indication that his job is being evaluated.
Asked Casey if he expects to be coaching the Raptors next season: "Nobody's told me any different and until they do I'm still here… Nobody's changed my key lock," said he hasn't gotten an assurances from Masai yet either.
The interesting thing there is that Casey said he still has not been assured by Ujiri that he will be back next season. Perhaps the situation is turning into one where the Raptors have their eye on a particular candidate and would be willing to replace Casey if an opportunity arose.
Casey said he's met with Ujiri and, while he didn't get an assurances on his future with Toronto, they remain on the same page. Organization's goal is to find a way to translate reg. season success to playoffs. Still referring to Raptors as "we".
Casey on criticism/rumours: "It's part of the business. I take it. I'm a big boy. I've been in it for years… It's part of the territory. I take it. I accept it. I'm not running from it… I'm an easy target… I don't feel sorry for myself."
While the way the Raptors’ season ended was disappointing, they could do much worse than Casey. Unless there is some irreparable damage that has been done, they still seem more likely to bring him back than fire him.
There have been some rumblings in recent days that Dwane Casey could be fired this offseason, and his peers apparently feel the Toronto Raptors would be parting ways with one of the best coaches in the league if they chose to go that route.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that Casey has been voted the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year, which is separate from the NBA’s version of the award. The NBCA introduced its own Coach of the Year Award last year, and the winner is decided by the league’s 30 head coaches. The NBA’s Coach of the Year Award is decided upon by members of the media.
Casey led the Raptors to their best season in franchise history this year with 59 wins, though it ended in disappointing fashion when they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semis. Despite the success and respect from his fellow coaches, there have been reports that the Raptors are leaning toward making a coaching change.
One of the reasons Casey could find himself on the chopping block is that he does not seem to be getting along with DeMar DeRozan, who is Toronto’s best player. DeRozan was benched for the final 14 minutes of Game 3 after he struggled mightily against Cleveland, and Shaq and Charles Barkley had a heated argument over it on Tuesday that turned personal.
If Casey is fired by the Raptors, he won’t be on the unemployment line for very long.
“A lot of things we did to ourselves,” said Casey. “Nothing special, nothing that we didn’t expect, some uncharacteristic things that we missed, some shots we missed, I thought that was the difference in the game.
“I think we’re a better team,” he added. “We just didn’t make the shots down the stretch. I know it sounds simplistic, but we had our open looks, had our opportunities that we didn’t cash in on. And some other things we can clean up defensively, that we can do a better job with also.”
Indeed, Toronto led for the entire game until the end of the fourth (including a surreal sequence where they missed three straight tip-ins on their final possession) and didn’t score a single point in the last minute or so of overtime.
Casey and the Raptors had the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. But now that they are down 0-1 to a familiar foe, they might benefit from going back to the mentality that they had in Round 1.
Brad Stevens is at the forefront of the Coach of the Year discussion this season, but he actually thinks that another candidate is more deserving.
Before the Boston Celtics played the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, the Celtics head coach said that he “could care less” about the award and that there was “no way” he would consider himself to be a part of the race. Stevens also went on to say that Raptors counterpart Dwane Casey should be at the top of the list, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN.
Brad Stevens’ thoughts on his Coach of the Year candidacy: "Could care less. There’s 29 other great coaches, and just to be a head coach in this league is enough. … There’s no way that I would ever consider myself to be in that race." pic.twitter.com/ZyYNoBNYCF
The 55-21 Raptors and the 53-23 Celtics are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in the East, and it is a credit to the respective jobs that Casey and Stevens have done. The former has elevated a seemingly stale core to a truly elite level this season, while the latter has turned a largely inexperienced team that lost Gordon Hayward for the year into a title contender.
Though there are a few deserving candidates for the award, Casey and Stevens could just find themselves No. 1 and No. 2 in Coach of the Year voting this year. But it sounds like Stevens would be perfectly fine with being the No. 2.
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was not a happy camper despite getting the victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, and now we know why.
In the final 30 seconds of Toronto’s 111-98 win, Raptors rookie OG Anunoby got a steal and proceeded to dunk it on the other end of the floor, a play that seemed to anger some of the Hawks. Upon the final buzzer sounding, Casey was seen cursing in the direction of Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta bench. Here is the video (beware of the foul language however):
In his postgame press conference, Casey was asked about the incident and hinted that he took exception to Budenholzer saying something to Anunoby.
“I’m a coaches’ coach,” Casey explained. “I love coaches, but one thing I don’t want you to do is say something to my players. I don’t know what was said exactly, but he was upset the kid stole the ball to go for a layup.
“We weren’t trying to run the score up,” he added. “They were trying to score, and we were trying to play defense. … There was no intent. Bud, he was probably in the heat of the moment. I was in the heat of the moment. Bud’s a good man, a good coach, but I’m gonna stick up for my players at any time.”
Of course, Casey is a coach who is never afraid to keep it real, and maybe the Raptors could use more of that fire as they chase the No. 1 seed in the East.