Jay Triano Could Be the Best

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IFebruary 26, 2010

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Jay Triano of the Toronto Raptors against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 2, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The whispers have started. Jay Triano could and should finish the 2009-10 season as the winningest head coach in Raptors history, on a percentage basis.

This seems rather odd. It was only three months ago that it looked like Triano could be competing for the Raptors head coaching alumni biggest loser title.

Triano took over last season from the 8-9 Sam Mitchell only to run the Raptors record to 25-40 during the final 65 games. Even taking the team’s numerous injuries and player changes into account, that wasn’t a very auspicious start to a head coaching career.

This season’s start did not exactly change most people’s impressions of Triano’s head coaching abilities either.

A 7-13 start, that included a stretch with some of the worst defense ever witnessed by Raptors fans, left many people wondering if Bryan Colangelo hadn’t jumped the gun by signing Triano long-term.

But Triano did come with some impressive references. Team USA Olympic program has selected Triano as one of their coaches for the past three summers and last year entrusted him to run their mini-camp in Las Vegas.

Clearly, Triano’s skills as a coach had been noticed by some of North America’s best basketball minds.

And Triano did impress during his first Raptors training camp with his focus on defense and his use of modern coaching teaching techniques like video.

Not surprisingly, Colangelo stuck out the rough start with his newly signed head coach and his patience was rewarded as Triano led the Raptors to the most wins in team history at the All-Star break.

Perhaps unfortunately, the bar for the “winningest” head coach in Raptors history has  been set rather low.

  1. Sam Mitchell with 156 wins and a 46.3 winning percentage leads all Raptors head coaches.
  2. Lenny Wilkens is a “close” second with 113 wins and a 45.9 winning percentage.  But Wilkens was 89-75 in his first two seasons as he took over a team that was 45-37 the year before he got there.

After 56 games this season, Triano’s career head coaching record is at 56-65 and a 46.2 winning percentage. He only has to play out the season at 13-13 to achieve a 69-78 overall record and a 46.9 winning percentage. That winning percentage is good enough for an all-time Raptors best.

There is little question the bar for Toronto Raptors head coaches is lower than most fans would like to accept.  But there is real hope that Jay Triano can improve on his record and bring some measure of respectability to that statistic. (It’s not really asking that much.)

Why did Lenny Wilkens have to suffer through a 24-58 record in his final season to lower the Raptors head coaching bar?  I guess it’s just one more thing Raptors fans can blame on Vince Carter!

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