Lawrence Frank, or Dwane Casey, that is the question.
Citing “multiple NBA sources,” the Toronto Star is reporting that the list of candidates in the running to become the eighth head coach in Toronto Raptors history is down to those two men.
For Raptors fans, the very thought that one of these two men will be at the helm when next season rolls around should be refreshing news. Perhaps if you were in the boat that actually believed Rick Adelman or Jeff Van Gundy would come to Toronto, then you are a little disappointed at tonight’s news. For the rest of you, the realistic ones, you should be pleased.
I say this because if the reports are true and one of Frank or Casey does become the next head coach in Toronto, then the Raptors will finally have a defensive-minded head coach who is both a hard-nosed disciplinarian and an X’s and O’s guy. It’s been a while since the Raps could say they had a coach like that.
Sam Mitchell was a hard-nosed defensive coach who was both a disciplinarian and a motivator, but no one would ever confuse him with an X’s and O’s coach. Jay Triano was supposed to be the X’s and O’s guy, but whether it was because of a lack of talent around him or incompetence, his play-calling ended up being painted with the same brush as his disciplinary tactics: soft.
Go back further and look at Kevin O’Neill – another defensive coach who could get fired up, but whose slow-it-down game was painful to watch. You could argue that Lawrence Frank is similar to O’Neill in this regard (in fact, Frank actually worked under O’Neill at Tennessee), but Frank is a master of late-game play-calling and thus, gets the edge.
Lenny Wilkens is a legend, and coached the Raptors through the franchise’s best days, but Lenny was often criticized for being too laid back and already having one foot in the retirement door while he was in Toronto. To really go back to a time when the Raptors had a coach who could both light a fire under players’ butts and draw up plays with the best of them, you would probably have to back a good 10 years, maybe more.
But alas, this is the prospect the team is now facing if they follow through and hire either Lawrence Frank or Dwane Casey. Casey needs to finish the job with the Mavericks in the NBA Final, of course, before the Raptors can really talk to him and make a decision.
Casey is a basketball-lifer whose name seems to pop up with every coaching vacancy around the NBA. He played college ball for Kentucky in the late 70′s and has been around the block as a coach. He was an assistant coach at the college level, a basketball coach in Japan, a head coach for the Timberwolves for a season-and-a-half between 2005-2007, and of course now, finds himself on the Mavericks’ bench.
He is obviously well respected around the league, and I feel as though a team would have to get better defensively with him at the helm. Another positive is that Casey probably wouldn’t have any time for players who refuse to play defence (looking at you, Jose and Andrea).
As for Frank, Raptors fans saw a lot of him in the mid-2000′s, as the Raps developed a bit of a rivalry with the Nets (thanks to Vince Carter) while Frank was the head coach in New Jersey. Like Casey, Frank is a defensive coach through and through, but as I already mentioned, what I like about Frank is that he is a proven X’s and O’s coach in late-game situations. Remember the shocking, heart-breaking yet still admirable alleyoop jam Frank drew up for Vince Carter to beat the Raptors in 2008?
Frank led the Nets to four straight playoff appearances from 2004-to-2007, but failed to get past the second round. Then he suffered through back-to-back 48-loss seasons before starting the 2009-2010 season with 16 straight losses to secure his termination. The downward trend could be a validation of the theory that fiery coaches work at first, but eventually lose their players’ ears.
I won’t lie and say that either of these two guys was my first choice as the next head coach of the Raptors. I really wanted Rick Adelman in Toronto, but once I woke up from my dream and realized that I would have to be more realistic, both of Frank and Casey were on my list, with Frank at the top.
No, neither of Lawrence Frank or Dwane Casey is going to be the second coming of Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich, and I doubt either of them would be as good as Rick Adelman. But at the end of the day, a rebuilding process is about progress and taking steps in the right direction. And I’m pretty sure that most would agree both Frank and Casey are upgrades over Jay Triano right now.
No one is asking for a miracle in year one. Raptors fans just want to see some hustle, defence and most importantly, accountability. If Lawrence Frank or Dwane Casey take over as head coach, I’d be willing to bet you can bank on those qualities.