After the Toronto Raptors lost all of their games in a trip out west in December and registered a record of 4-18, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo remarked that the problems with the team were not “a talent issue.” If not the talent, than was there a problem with head coach Dwane Casey?
Following the bad stretch in December, the Raptors went on to win half of the rest of their games despite a very disappointing season from big man Andrea Bargnani. Toronto also acquired star forward Rudy Gay and saw players like power forward Amir Johnson and rookie center Jonas Valanciunas flourish in their increasing roles.
In sum, the Raptors had a season of ups and downs. They didn’t make the playoffs, but they had a great five-game winning streak at season’s end. Things appear to be looking up for the young Raptors squad next season.
But questions still surround head coach Dwane Casey.
According to the National Post, Casey recently said of his and general manager Bryan Colangelo’s futures with the Raptors, “We all work for [Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment], and I don’t know what the time frame is going to be.” He continued, “I haven’t been told, but whatever they decide I hope it’s Bryan and I back because we started this plan together.”
Like Casey, Colangelo seems to look forward to coming back to Toronto with the head coach. He said of Casey, “We get along great and if I come back there will be no question about who the coach will be.”
Not only does Colangelo appear to have a solid bond with the head coach despite his ambiguous “talent” comment after the dismal run in December, but he also stresses that Casey garners the players’ respect.
Colangelo detailed, “The other thing I would tell you is the players in the locker room respect Dwane Casey.” He went on, “They respect the way he approaches the game and respect his thoughts and ideals as do we as an organization. That is why he is going to be back—because he’s the right coach for this basketball team.”
Player respect is a necessity for any coach, and it is certainly a plus for Dwane Casey if he wants to increase the Raptors' success next season.
Casey has won the approval of one very important player in particular: his point guard, Kyle Lowry. Lowry had a decent season considering he was thrust into the lead point guard role when Jose Calderon was dealt away at the end of January.
As reported by the Toronto Star, Lowry said before the last two games of Toronto’s season,
Coach just kind of told me he’s going to let me run the show the last couple of weeks. I’ve been doing in the last years, I’ve had coaches who pretty much let me call the plays, run the offence, and have the confidence in me that I’m going to do the right thing. It took a little bit of time but he’s kind of letting me do a lot more now.
There was a stretch there where I wasn’t playing as much, I was only playing 15, 16 minutes a game so it was one of those things where I came into keep the lead or maintain [it]. It definitely set me back, set us back, with that type of relationship; it’s definitely taken longer but that’s what happens when you have a brand new team pretty much. We had new pieces coming in, and we made a trade, other guys coming back, had injuries in and out, it always sets you back a little bit.
Though it took time to build a bond, the connection between Casey and his point guard has nevertheless been forged, and this bodes well as the Raptors move through the summer into the next season.
Though he didn’t coach Toronto to an outstanding record or a playoff appearance, Casey still stuck with his team through the hard times and coached it through some solid games. His bond with Kyle Lowry and the success of Rudy Gay and Jonas Valanciunas are positive indicators for next season.
Dwane Casey should be given a chance to see more success in Toronto as head coach.