Dwane Casey

For the past week or so, it seems like it’s been a matter of when — not if — Dwane Casey would be hired as the new head coach of the Toronto Raptors. Today, the Raptors will officially announce that Casey will be the franchise’s eighth coach in its 17th season.

It’s not hard to understand why Casey would be seen as a desirable candidate to coach this team — he was reported to be the “defensive architect” behind the Mavs’ championship run this season, including the zone defense that confounded LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Finals. I’m not sure how much credit Casey really deserves for the Mavs’ defense, considering that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has been one of the better defensive coaches in the league for quite some time. But Raptors fans can hope that he’s learned a lot from “the master” and can apply those strategies to a team that has had the NBA’s worst defense for two straight seasons.

Casey’s previous NBA head coaching experience was in Minnesota, where he compiled a 53-69 record over a season-and-a-half from 2005 to 2007. When Casey took over the Timberwolves for the 2005-06 season, he improved their Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) from 15th overall in 2004-05 to 10th in the NBA in his only full season. Casey was fired midway through the 2006-07 season with a 20-20 record, and the T-Wolves proceeded to go 12-30 under his replacement, Randy Wittman.

After his January 2007 firing, ESPN’s Ric Bucher described Casey as “classy and soft-spoken” while then-GM Kevin McHale said, “Case is a tremendous guy. I couldn’t find a negative thing to say about him.” Former Seattle SuperSonics radio play-by-play announcer Kevin Locke had this assessment of Casey after he learned about Casey’s dismissal in Minnesota:

“Casey is one of the best people I have known in this business. He works diligently at his task and has a vision for what he believes and how he believes basketball should be played. He is tireless. He is high quality.”

With the Mavericks’ recent success and considering how he seems to be regarded throughout the league, it’s not hard to see why he would appeal to Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. My only question is: Why did it take him so long to get another head coaching job after he lost his Minnesota gig?

For years, Casey was one of those guys who always seemed to get mentioned as a candidate for any head coaching vacancy, but it never really panned out for him. Maybe it’s that “soft-spoken” thing, which can make you likable but doesn’t necessarily command the respect of a certain type of player. Luckily, the Raptors’ likely key players going forward — Demar DeRozan and Ed Davis — don’t seem to be the kind of players that need to be yelled at for motivation.

While most of us would surely have preferred a more experienced leader like Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman or Mike Fratello, those guys likely aren’t interested in taking over rebuilding team like this one so Casey is probably the best of the remaining options. He certainly brings a winning pedigree coming to the Raptors after he was a key figure on the coaching staff of the reigning champs — that ought to earn the players’ respect in Toronto immediately.

What are your thoughts on this hire? Is Casey the right coach to finally lead this team to competitive respectability?

Comments (10)

  1. I was hoping for Lawrence Frank.

    We’ve tried out an assistant of Carlisle’s before, who was a “defensive-minded” coach in Kevin O’Neil and that didn’t work out all that well……of course he didn’t have exp. as a head coach……….just sayin’.

    All in all, I just hope for success for the team I adore.

    Here’s to hoping we draft Vesley!

  2. LOOKING FORWARD TO SEE WHAT CASEY DOES WITH THIS TEAM….LAST CHANCE FOR COLANGELO…..ANYTHING IS BETTER THAT POOR EXCUSE FOR A COACH TRIANO….

  3. I was hoping they would have selected someone with more head coaching experience although MLSE is not likely to approve 4 or 5 million at this phase of the rebuild for a prominent coach.

    Now the more difficult part of the rebuild begins. Can our offensively minded President/GM bring in the right player’s to compliment Casey’s game plan.

    As for the draft I have this un-easy feeling that the one time the Raptors avoid or don’t draft a big European available when they pick that player will turn out to be a stud.

    If I was making the selection K Leonard would get my vote. A defensive minded rebounding small forward would look good beside DD, Davis and Amir.

  4. He’s the right coach considering the circumstances. L. Frank seems like Scott Skiles – a hard ass who has immediate impact but hits his ceiling quickly. I think Casey has more longevity, and I sure hope he sticks. Averaging a new coach every two years is trash.

  5. it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. all we really want is a team that improves fundamentally and solidifies the chemistry of the group. basically my position is that this team will likely flounder until BC is finally cut loose and by that point a fresh management perspective may actually have some personnel chips to play if casey is able to actually develop a coherent unit.

    watching what the playoffs teams were made of this year clearly juxtaposes the Raptors lack of post-season mettle. last year was by any standard of measurement a wasted year… the players may have showcased some individual abilities based on playing time etc, but nothing in terms of team integrity was advanced, nor was there ever any sense that our coaching staff actually brought a consistent, longterm system to the table.

    the draft appears to be medicore and our GM has repeatedly demonstrated horrible judgement in terms of key role players vs. salary commitments so the one thing you’d hope doesn’t happen is yet another string of bad risk signings that’ll hamper the new GM’s position when he does take over the franchise in the next year or two.

  6. For a team that has been such a defensive embarrassment for so long, and given the list of plausible candidates, this move makes sense. By all accounts I’ve read, Casey has long deserved another chance, and I haven’t been able to find one negative comment about him from anyone connected to the NBA.

    No coach is going to turn this current roster into a legit competitor, but if the D improves, the effort is more consistent, and players are held accountable, that’s all good and it’s a step in the right direction. Let’s see how some of these young guys continue to develop.

  7. I’m a Raptors fan through and through, but my big question is not why would we hire Dwayne Casey, but why would he want to coach in Toronto. From what I’ve read, he’d turned down an opportunity to even interview for the Detroit post. HOpefully its a sign that he sees something in the roster that is worth working with, and perhaps he has a promise from Calangelo that Bargnani will be traded. Bargs does what he does well, but refuses to do much else; a horrible albatross to saddle a new coach with.

  8. Brian: I can answer your question. As much of a laughingstock as the Raptors might be around the NBA, the Pistons are arguably the league’s biggest train wreck right now. Casey probably sees the young talent and good attitudes on the Raptors and figures he can work with that. He probably looked at the petulant attitudes of the Pistons’ veterans and their horrible contracts and determined he wanted nothing to do with that mess.

  9. Casey’s a smart choice but thinking of this team, I can’t help but feel bad for Casey. These guys just have such a long way to go and literally zero defensive leadership on the floor (esp.without Reggie).

    The only hope is he can get something we’ve never seen before out of multiple players. A tall, tall order historically speaking.

    Maybe we should have stuck with Triano for one more year of tanking before bringing in a new coach.

  10. I wonder if BC hired someone who had coached the player Bargnani was supposed to become in order to see what he could get out of him.

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