Published: Sat, May 12, 2018
Sports | By Brett Lawson

With Casey out, Ujiri finally puts himself into the line of fire

With Casey out, Ujiri finally puts himself into the line of fire

In a bit of a surprising move, the Toronto Raptors announced that they will be parting ways with Dwane Casey, who served as head coach of the team for seven years. The free-flowing, 3-point shooting Raptors were the NBA's second-most efficient team; Toronto's 59 wins were the most in franchise history. All Casey did in seven seasons was win 57.3 percent of his games, rack up three consecutive 50-plus-win seasons and make the playoffs five straight times. The Raptors need to narrow their focus to the more granular aspects of winning - opponent-specific tactics, on-the-fly in-game adjustments, end-of-quarter execution, and so on - now that their foundation is firmly established, and their next head coach will be charged with taking that on.

All of them (assistants) are with us for now.

Ujiri said he spent "countless hours" evaluating the team in the days following this year's defeat before deciding to fire Casey. The Indiana Pacers practically handed a gift to Casey and he failed to take advantage of it. Indiana showed the Raptors how to defeat the Cavaliers. Yet again, the team up north ran into LeBron James in the second round and got swept in four games, getting utterly embarrassed in the process. Casey had one year remaining on a three-year, $18 million dollar extension he received in June, 2016.

"I feel it didn't get us there, but I think it's credible".

"We can't be all happy on the farm", he'd say, with the subtlest of winks, after a win. The conference finals coaches will weigh in, Rick Carlisle, too, and somewhere, someone will track down a Van Gundy. In exchange, the team received point guard Kyle Lowry.

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Casey's dismissal Friday is reminiscent of the 2012-13 season, when the Denver Nuggets fired their coach, George Karl, only 29 days after Karl was named the National Basketball Association coach of the year. LeBron James and the Cavs made quick work of all the positivity of the Raptors' regular season. We really do appreciate it and honestly, in some instances I think of this as, in some way, a celebration.

On Friday, Lowry repeated some of that to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. "A lot of my success, all of my success, I have to credit Casey".

"There's five years of bond here, with all these players that's the coach they know, this is the coach we know", he said. "As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level", Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. Remaking an expensive roster will be hard - he admitted as much himself on Friday - and a new voice at head coach will at least give the team something of a fresh outlook after a season that ended with such disappointment. On Friday, Ujiri said he wants his new coach to continue that style moving forward.

Ujiri said a few times on Friday that he hoped Casey would be celebrated for all that he has done here.

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