To clear things up before this blog post takes off, let me clarify a few things.

This will not be one of those idiotic posts in which the writer hints that he or she could do a better job running or coaching a team than the people in charge. Also, while I have criticized Jay Triano on multiple occasions, I do not “hope” he gets fired or wish failure for his career.

To be honest, I want Jay Triano to succeed in Toronto. I think it would be an amazing story for the NBA, the Raptors organization and Canadian basketball to have him survive these team struggles and ultimately lead the franchise into never before seen glory days.

The question, though, is does Jay Triano deserve to be given the chance to lead this franchise into what could be a promising future? Given what has transpired over the last couple of years, it’s growing increasingly difficult to answer that question with a yes.

After serving as a Raptors assistant under three different head coaches, Triano was promoted to interim head coach in the middle of the 2008-2009 season. That season will go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history (along with 2001-02 and 2009-10), but Triano was spared much criticism because many felt he wasn’t given enough time with a new team, and an overrated team at that. The fact, though, is that Triano took over 17 games into that season, and had 65 games to get it right. The Raptors went 25-40 during that time, and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

When Sam Mitchell was fired in December of 2008, the Raptors were 8-9; one game under .500 in a season where the East’s eighth seed eventually went to a 39-win team and the sixth seed to a team that finished with a .500 record.

To many people’s surprise, Triano was retained after that debacle and given the reins as the team’s new, full time head coach. Bryan Colangelo then dismantled the roster Triano had failed with, and assembled the deepest, most talented roster the Raptors have had under Colangelo’s watch. They had the talent to squeak into the playoffs in an off-year, and the legitimate ability to contend for a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference.

With an actual training camp to work with this time, Triano stressed defence and a better work ethic.

And yet in 2009-2010, the Raptors were one of the worst defensive teams in recent NBA memory, they stumbled down the stretch to a 40-42 record and ultimately missed the playoffs by one game.

Triano was facing “strike two” in his short NBA head coaching career, but still, his supporters brought forward tangible excuses: Hedo Turkoglu never reached even a tenth of his capabilities in Toronto and Chris Bosh was injured during the team’s late season plunge.

Others could point out that Triano probably didn’t utilize Turkoglu correctly, and regardless of Bosh’s absence, Triano’s team failed to show up, for all intents and purposes, in the biggest game of the season: game no. 80 against the Bulls, with the playoffs very much on the line.

Had Bryan Colangelo decided that the Jay Triano experiment would come to an end after that disastrous season (which ultimately culminated in Chris Bosh skipping town), it would have been easy to understand and nearly impossible to argue against. However, once again, Triano was given another chance, only this time to coach a young roster with little-to-no expectations in 2010-2011.

As he did the year before in training camp, Triano talked about an improved defensive system. But this year there was a twist; with no star on the roster in Year 1 post-Bosh, Triano claimed that every single Raptor would have to earn his playing time. There would be no special treatment for anyone, or so we were led to believe.

This season may be Triano’s worst yet.

The Raptors are 13-33, already fading in a pathetic East playoff race and mired in a nasty nine-game losing streak. Sure, there are valid excuses for Triano again this season. The team is low on talent, incredibly young and inexperienced and currently ravaged by injuries.

So maybe the win-loss total shouldn’t be on Jay’s shoulders, but what about other facets of the game?

For the second season in a row, Toronto is the league’s worst defensive team (based on defensive efficiency) and that laughable defence has become an NBA punch-line.

There have been more than a few questionable decisions in relation to rotation management, with players like Sonny Weems playing their way out of the rotation in everyone’s eyes except Triano’s. Not to mention, the Raptors have been atrocious, for the most part, in play-calling out of late timeouts. As I’ve stated before, either Triano can’t draw up a competent late-game play, or his players aren’t listening to what he wants done. Either scenario reveals a coaching problem.

A good professional level coach, in any sport, should either be an “X’s and O’s” wizard or one hell of a motivator. A great coach is both (Think Jackson, Popovich, etc). Sam Mitchell had his strength, and everyone knew it wasn’t X’s and O’s. The motivational fire worked well for Smitch for a couple of years, but once it became apparent that Mitchell had lost his influence over the players, and it was clear he had nothing else, he was fired.

Triano was supposed to be the X’s and O’s guy, but he has seldom shown that in two-plus years. And it’s painfully clear that he is not the motivational type, either.

So, what does Jay bring to the equation?

His supporters point to the emergence of Andrea Bargnani, the effort Jay was getting out of this year’s team and the recent development of DeMar DeRozan. In the case of Bargnani, I doubt Triano did anything magical for Il Mago. He simply gave him more floor time and let him play through his barrage of mistakes. In fact, you could now argue that Triano doesn’t know how to limit Andrea’s minutes, even when it’s deserved. As for the “effort” argument, if you’ve watched the Raptors lately, then you know that the effort has been far from consistent for over a month. Yes, they’re young and banged up, but that does not, ever, excuse a lack of effort.

So then we’re left with DeRozan’s development. I’ll hand it to Jay. He’s handled DeMar the right way through a season-and-a-half, but what happens when the Raptors get some bodies back, and Triano can punish DeMar for his sub-par defence? Will he take a firm stance with DeRozan, or will he let the youngster get away with a lack of focus on the defensive end?

You sort through all of this and truly wonder what has kept Triano firmly entrenched as the Raptors bench boss. Perhaps Bryan Colangelo really does see Jay as “his guy,” and is going to stick with him through thick and thin. Who knows, with Colangelo’s contract up after this season, maybe it’s Bryan who is on his way out of town and currently stuck in lame-duck mode, though I highly doubt that’s the case.

We’ve heard for years that Triano is well respected throughout the league, has a great “basketball mind” and was always seen as a very good assistant coach. He’s clearly a great international coach as well, or he wouldn’t have found his way onto Team U.S.A.’s bench recently.

But has any evidence been produced through parts of three seasons to suggest he is a capable NBA head coach?

Some say Triano should be retained for the long-term for stability’s sake, as the Raptors have been known to be quick-triggered with coaches. But is it worth keeping what looks like the wrong guy in charge just to appear “stable?” Isn’t that as foolish as firing a coach you believe in just for the sake of change?

Again, I think it would be great if years from now, whenever it is that the Raptors take a step towards becoming an elite NBA franchise, Jay Triano is still at the helm. But in looking at things honestly, one would be hard-pressed to find a reason why Triano deserves that opportunity.

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the truth hurts.

Comments (27)

  1. Its good that raptor blog is calling Jay out and i like that you did it respectfully but why isnt the accredited media like newspapers calling this guy out? If he wasnt fired after last year’s fail and like you mentioned that bulls game at the end of the season, he wont be fired with this team

  2. What do you think of PJ running the show

  3. You really think this roster is playoff material? Especially when half the decent players are injured half the time? In the early going of this season, when everyone was healthy, the team fluttered close to the .500 mark, which I think most can agree is all that you could reasonably expect from this group of scrubs. Then Evans went down and then Jose went down , then Sonny, then Bargs….and there went the season down the crapper.

    This team is bad because it doesn’t have enough good players on it.

    ~Uncle Ted

  4. Kinda reminisent of Doc Rivers and the very young promising Celtics, couldn’t teach them to play defense, had a losing record etc. etc. traded them all awqy all of a sudden with a veteran line up and1 decent young point guard, not great, he could coach and they could win. Give you’re head a shake, its going to get worse, top 5 picks only going to make us younger and worse defensively. Get some vets go over the tax and give this city what it deserves

  5. Joseph, if you had any idea what it took to coach a professional basketball team, I would take you seriously. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the truth hurts.

  6. finally this article is written. finally.

  7. Michel G: That’s a weak attack. If the only people qualified to write about pro sports are people who have played or coached at the top level, then you wouldn’t have a heck of a lot to read about your favorite sport. Some of the best new GMs in this league are guys who never played in the NBA. You can be smart about the game without having been an elite player or coach.

  8. I think this team looks well coached considering the talent on offense… What Triano needs is an assistant to be the “heavy” to get on people so he can coach them without pissing them off too much (a la Phil Jackson/Tex Winter)…

    I think he’s coaching like a guy who knows his job is secure and he’s truly trying to develop his young long term guys rather than try to win… he’s not an idiot, he (and bc) know wins won’t really help much as much as they have to act like they’re everything for the fans and player’s motivational sakes…

    Like the guy above, says, look at the Doc Rivers and the Celtics, not going to win many battles without some big guns…

  9. I don’t think Triano should be fired until the end of the season.

    It’s obvious by this point that we’re not making the playoffs, so there’s no point in firing Triano and having to pay the contracts of two coaches. And besides, Triano gives us the best chance to land a high draft pick.

  10. “in everyone’s eyes” sonny has played his way out of the rotation! really? i am someone and i disagree! fact sonny started 18 games before his back injury, our record was 8w-10L a 44.4 win%. we are 5win 23L when sonny either did not or start or play a17.8 win %. this is fact and i suggest that it supports my position and directly contradics your position that sonny has “played” his way out of not only starting but also the rotation! opinion is a mixure of percieved fact and bias and everyone has there own but no one is entitled to claim ” everyone” elses!

  11. Can’t put too much of the blame on Triano. A team no one expected to hit 30 wins, hit hard by ijuries/illness is probable where it should be in the standings.
    I’ll even credit Jay. Amir is staying on the floor more, Demar is scoring more, Ed is being eased in slowly and shows he can play. And we are withing range of our goal of top 5 lottery pick.

  12. @ tinman.

    here we go again with the “nobody expected this team to be good” mantra. what a crock of shit. can’t blame triano? are you nuts? who exactly do you think is running this team? or maybe you just think Fate is our coach? sigh.

    according to your point of view tinman, we should all just happily accept sub-par talent and management simply because it is OBVIOUS we have sub-par management and talent? sigh. what a solipsistic and pathetic approach to life. is that how you’d run your teams at work?

    not for me. i think you have to demand production from your town’s franchise. you gotta make sure that the organization simply wont stand for losing culture or lull its fanbase into lowered expectations.

    in fact i would say that it’s part of the obligations of the sports media in a city to constantly hold these teams accountable for their performances; and in that regard our crop of mainstream reporters, journalists, broadcasters and announcers has simply failed miserably. all i ever hear out of the fan590 or on the raptors tv broadcasts are excuses excuses excuses. it’s total bullshit and these folks need to account for their slinging of the koolaid.

  13. @ cb

    I know a lot of fans don’t share my perspective on this, but I don’t believe it’s the beat reporter’s job to be critical of team management, coaches, players, etc. That’s what columnists and bloggers can do. Feschuk is certainly never shy to criticize the Raptors, neither am I and now Joe has stepped up. We’re not as widely read as Doug Smith’s blog, but we are technically mainstream media (albeit on a smaller scale).

    Besides, it’s not like anything the reporters or bloggers in this town write are likely to enact a change as significant as getting a coach fired. I do think it’s important to voice opinions like this, but even if every Raptors reporter got on the “Fire Jay” bandwagon, that wouldn’t make a difference unless fans started boycotting the team altogether.

  14. I agree with some comments here – it’s a weird time of the season to be calling out the coach. Nothing in this team’s production has surprised anybody. What that means, cb, is that this team is just starting to rebuild after losing a franchise player last summer, and nobody is surprised that in the first year the Raptors are at the bottom of the league. That’s how rebuilds go.

    I’m not saying Triano should be around long term. One consistent element has been last in the league defense, even when they weren’t fielding last in the league talent. That would be reason enough to let Triano go, but not this season. He’s developing the young guys, for the most part he’s motivating a team that knows the year is lost, and he’s losing games. Right now those are all things the Raptors need to do.

  15. Triano should be getting more defensive effort out of his key players. Period. There’s no excuse for the raptors being far and away the league’s worst defensive team two years running.

    The team is built to lose (obviously), but play with some pride and hustle. Toronto has a chance to rebuild from scratch the right way, and this needs to start at the defensive end. Maybe there are other factors at play that are tying his hands in regards to the high number of minutes Bargnani and Calderon are being rewarded, but it’s hard not to feel as though Triano simply overvalues the offensive side of the game, despite the fact it’s only 50%.

  16. First of all, I appreciate the read and ALL the comments. I think what you have to remember when reading this is that I was not just focusing on this season, but rather Jay’s entire time as head coach and was looking at things beyond just wins and losses (ie- consecutive seasons of 30th ranked defence). In regards to this season, I have written many times that a better coach probably would not have this team in much better position. But again, just because losing this year would actually be better for the future of this franchise, does that mean the coach who has been a part of the losing should be rewarded?

    As for Michel’s comment, I believe I stated in the opening paragraph that this was NOT a post in which the writer believes he could do a better job coaching than the current head coach. It’s a post where I stated facts, stated my opinion and posed a question to you.

    I’ve also thought about Rivers and the Celtics when writing about Triano, but you have to remember that Rivers came into Boston after four seasons of at least 41 wins in Orlando, and actually won 45 in his first season with the Celtics.

    I’m not yelling “Fire Triano” from a rooftop, but rather asking what he has done to deserve the head coaching position in Toronto, going forward.

    Again, thanks to all for reading and taking the time to comment.

  17. I’m going to pose a question. Are the Raptors not who they’re supposed to be? Everybody commented at the beginning of the year that this team had no margin for error. Well, their margin for error left the building a long time ago when the injuries started to pile up. Because of that, their bench is non existent. There is nothing the coaching staff can do about that.

    They have liabilities on defense that can perhaps be blamed on Triano. If Bargnani does not know after four year the basics of help defense, then that must be on the coaching. But I think we all know that if Bargnani wanted to put the effort into his defense, it would improve. The same can be said for a lot of the players (Barbosa, DeRozan, etc.). Still, this falls on the coaching staff to make everybody accountable, especially Triano. But I wouldn’t fire him because of it, not yet anyway.

    All I wanted to see this year was tangible development amongst the young players that will form the core of this team. I also wanted to see consistent effort, which we’ve seen. Everybody knew that this year was going to be a difficult one; that it would take a couple of years to recover from the loss of Bosh. I think the coaching staff have done a commendable job considering the team they we’re given by MANAGEMENT. Firing the coach would be the easy thing to do but it would shift the blame from where it really belongs. But that’s another topic.

  18. @ Michel G:

    Just admit that the effort out of this team is piss poor and disgusting….and when it comes to a lack of effort, you have to question the coach, as much as the roster.

    I admit that I had zero expectations to win this season…but that’s because management has squandered the last five years, only to start the inevitable rebuild now.

    But when I spend over $150 to go to a game against the supreme 76er’s…it would be nice to see some effort, or at least to see guys like Davis play through their mistakes, as opposed to a complete snoozefest from Bargnani.

  19. @Larry Sanders:

    I will admit nothing of the kind. The Raptors’ effort has been fine the mojority of the year. If you’re disappointed with the team, why did you spend the money?

  20. cb clearly knows ZERO about bball….

  21. Listen bud, this article can be summarized in five simple words: Jay Triano is an idiot.

    The only thing Triano is consistent at is doing the wrong thing.

    Its time to rebuild the team with not just new players, but a new coaching staff as well.


  22. @SirLOU87


    genius comment buddy. genius.

    clearly i know nothing.


    i feel sorry for you.

  23. @carefoot.

    actually scott, it is the reporters job to critically investigate and report on the objective elements of the story they’re covering.

    In the case of pro sports teams, i find most of the media report aspirationally about the Raptors, not factually.

    The fifth estate has always existed to provide the citizenry with an unbiased version of events and facts that the average person might not have access to.

    Sports reporters ought to adhere to the same standards.

    I’m not suggesting that all reports need be critical; but at the same time too many reporters and broadcasters are willfully turning a blind eye to the evidence on display on the basketball courts. And it’s not as though they’ve been shy to choose sides and weigh in on things like extending the GM’s contract and publishing emotionally-based screeds on the coaching acumen of the Raptors staff.

    As well, it’s not a “Fire Jay” bandwagon; no one is silly enough to think that you simply waltz around firing people… but JT’s been given a free pass in terms of critical evaluation to date and that does a disservice to everyone. Plus, if the sports reporters become a defacto tool of the Franchise to maintain ticket sale equilibrium by spouting excuses for a lacklustre roster and on-court performance (which territory they certainly seem to be entering more often than not) then the team is pretty much doomed.

    But believe what you want Scott.

  24. If the Raptors get 1st pick in the draft, they’ll probably draft some random euro guy instead of guys like Kyrie Irving (the next CP3) or Perry Jones (an improved Lamar Odom) hahahahaha. No I’m just kidding Colangelo needs to stop going to Europe and start drafting guys who can play defense. Kyrie and Jones are 2 wonderful examples with tremendous amounts of potential.

    Oh and Jay Triano, please stop splitting minutes with Amir Johnson and start Ed Davis (guy who can block shots and rebound very well).

  25. The biggest issues are Andrea’s lack of defensive awareness, complete lack of leadership from the 10 million dollar man Jose, and Zero toughness. Can’t fire the players so the coach must install this into them. If not, he’s gotta go.

  26. I did not agree when Sam Mitchell was fired when the record at the time was 8-9. Stupid decision to hire Jay Triano who has no experience as a head coach. He should be fired before the end of the season and get an experienced younger coach. We are like a farm team as they call in baseball for US teams.

  27. I agree that Triano should of play Jullian wright more. But European dont really value defense and all around toughness. We can talk till our face turn blue, The Raptor have more excuses waiting instore. I can tell you I new all this would happen to the Raptors. If you google blogs from 3 years alot of people new too that the Raptors would suck.

    What give them away, all the self praises. when people are getting big extention for nothing.
    Anrea and Caleron got big contract and their are talked about as excellent players, so how can they be so good if Derozan,Davis,Amir is improving. How can the Raptors only muster 22 wins. The Answer is Over-evaluation. For the first time I hate the Raptors. I think there is something extremely wrong with the organization. Colangelo seems to go after the worst players. His Calderon deal that fall through was a sham thats a deal that could of never happened. Thats like saying I though that Bosh would resign even thought he is choosing to explore the Market. Wanting to resign means you resign nothing else. Colangelo is a real joker. I could see his kids at home about to get burn or shocked an him waiting to see if it happens instead of making a move. LOL.

    Gee I wonder what happens when you promote a worse coach and get the bottom player on the market on your team. 22-60 . When all is said and done that all that matters excuses are only that results matters especially when your in control because if not you can’t help the Raptors and your getting mllions to o the job. What can a guy like me who gets nothing but can do a way better job do.

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