Raptors Turn Page, "Smitch" Fired... Finally

Nolan HowardContributor IDecember 6, 2008

What transpired after the Raptors' loss in Denver earlier this week was inevitable, and the final blow of an era of basketball in Toronto. How does one sum up Sam Mitchell's head coaching career with the Raps?

Well, after his final loss as head coach (a humiliating 132-93 defeat) in his post-game press conference with various Raptor beat writers and reporters he stated:

"The best thing about this loss is that afterwards I didn't have to go into the locker room and say anything."

Less than 24 hours later Sam was fired.

Didn't have to say anything? A game in which the team looked the worst since the day Brian Colangelo took over the reins (2+ seasons) gave up about as many open shots and easy dunks/lay-ups than some teams do in an entire season. It was an effort only the Oklahoma City Thunder could probably match and an outright embarrassment.

Yes, the players checked out of this one very early, but who is to fault for that? Players are players, and if they alone, are able to design and run an offense and defense effectively why have coaches at all?

As an alternative, players could take turns inviting their buddies to come down and sit court-side in the seats vacated previously by the coaching staff. Crazy, huh? Well that's how crazy laying blame on the Toronto Raptors' players is.

This is a team comprised of above average talent, capable of competing for a home-seed in the play-offs, yet after this road-trip looks like a lock for another first-round disappointing play-off loss at best.

Something HAD to give, and Sam was it. Let's remember that this didn't happen over night. The Toronto Raptors have been a relatively poor team since they lost to the New Jersey Nets in the playoffs two seasons ago. Following that loss they stumbled through a mediocre at very best 2007-2008 season with a 41-41 record and another playoff loss to a beatable opponent.

Teams very quickly learned how to defend the Toronto Raptors, and what was once a team able to generate good looks both inside and out, became a team that time after time has settled for contested jump-shots. On the defensive end, the Raptors are continuously broken down whether it be by one-on-one dribble penetration, or by several picks and screens.

The result this season, is the team has looked completely lost on both sides of the floor, and during this last string of games even questioning their own talent.

Were expectations to high? Was this Raptor team never really good? The answer is a resounding NO to both. Players need to be put in the right situations to succeed and this is why teams have coaches.

Chris Bosh came into this season on a mission. Coming off a gold-medal in the Olympics, in which he was a solid contributor on both ends of the floor, Chris brought a level of intensity unseen by Raptor and NBA fans alike. He was scoring, defending, hustling, and was vocal with his team.

He was everything a team looks for from it's best player. He did this after spending the summer with legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K). As this NBA season has moved along, Chris has done less and less of the things aforementioned, and he along with his teammates and Brian Colangelo rightfully indicted Sam Mitchell.

The offense was too simple, and the defense has been non-existent. All the great things that Chris Bosh had done in the summer were gone about 10 games into the season. Yes, the Toronto Raptors are a step down from playing with Team USA, yet clearly Sam Mitchell was unable to inspire this team successfully.

From his one-play (high screen and roll) offense, to his defensive style in which players were allowed to get away with not fighting through screens, Sam Mitchell lacked. When three players swarm a player driving to the basket leaving two others wide-open, it's very clear that fundamentals are the problem. When coming out of a time-out on offense generally leads to a well contested jump-shot, fundamentals are the problem.

"The best thing about this loss is that afterwards I didn't have to go into the locker room and say anything."

Sam Mitchell didn't say/do enough as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, and that is what got him fired.