The Toronto Raptors wound up 13th in Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears' latest edition of power rankings, but it's the tidbit he included therein that may draw the most attention: "Coach Dwane Casey's agent met with Toronto GM Masai Ujiri last week. Casey is expected back."
By almost any metric, Casey's earned the job.
In three seasons with the Raptors, he's turned the team into Atlantic Division champions, the third-overall seed in the Eastern Conference. He's done it with a roster that's been significantly retooled throughout his tenure, ultimately losing Rudy Gay for pennies on this dollar early in December of this season.
Through the turmoil and doubts, Casey has quietly built a winner.
He turned a 34-48 2012-13 record into a 48-34 record this season.
When asked about getting his 100th win with Toronto, Casey said all the right things, per The Star's Doug Smith: "It’s not about personal, it’s about the team, it’s about the organization, it’s about the players who have been here in the three years and the process that we’ve gone through. To start where we did and build — and we’re still building — is a tribute to the young guys and the players who have been here."
But to be fair, it's also a tribute to Casey. He's earned those young guys' respect and has them playing together with a chemistry that rivals some of the league's very best.
Much of that has to do with the organization's apparent faith in its head coach, according to Raptors forward John Salmons, as reported by the Calgary Herald's Eric Koreen: "A lot of organizations don’t allow coaches to do certain things. In this organization, they give (Casey) a lot of leeway to coach. Players see that and know that he’s got the back of the organization and they have to fall in line."
Casey and general manager Masai Ujiri will work out contractual details after the postseason, according to The Star's Cathal Kelly, but the writing is on the wall. Nobody thought Casey would take the team this far, and he'll reap rewards for turning so many heads—at least the ones willing to pay any attention to what's happening up in Toronto.
It's hard to see Casey walk away with an especially rich contract, but nothing's stopping him from getting another three-year deal. The Raptors still have a young team, and Casey's work isn't done. He'll need at least another season or two before we can really get a handle's on this club's ceiling under Casey.
Casey's Raptors will face the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.