Dwayne Casey just led the Toronto Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins, the second-best record in the NBA, the first seed in the Eastern Conference, and then was voted by his peers as the best coach in the league. And now he’s about to lose his job.
That’s how crushing and demoralizing the Raptors’ second-round, four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers was.
Despite being awarded the Michael H. Goldberg Coach of the Year Award this week by the NBA Coaches Association, reports persist that the Raptors will be letting go of Casey.
Casey at the Bat?
Casey has been by far the most successful coach in the history of the Toronto franchise. In seven seasons at the helm, he’s led the Raptors to five winning seasons and five playoff appearances, while winning four playoff series. All previous Raptors coaches combined for just five playoff appearances in 16 seasons, and none have ever won a single best-of-seven series.
This season showcased some of Casey’s best work yet, at least in the regular season. Toronto was the only team in the league that finished top five in both offense and defense.
But the cries of “same old Raptors” could be heard across Canada after the team was bounced in four straight games by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second straight year. King James has owned the Raptors so badly that many on social media were calling for the city to be renamed “LeBronto”.
The target has clearly been moved for the Raptors, and regular season success is no longer enough. The bar has now been set much higher, and failing to hit it may cost Casey his job.
Waiting for the Axe
General manager Masai Ujiri has been preaching patience, stressing the need to weigh all factors before making any major decisions on Casey. Still, most reports indicate that he’ll relieve the longest tenured coach in the NBA of his duties before long.
Casey’s peers have a hard time believing the Raptors would turf a coach who has done so much to turn around the franchise, according to The Sporting News.
“That’s crazy. I mean, to change a team who they said played (isolation) basketball, to being top three, I guess, in offense and defense this year, the second-best record in the NBA, like, it’s just, I don’t believe that one bit. I mean, it would be absurd to make a move like that.”
– Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue
Such a move, absurd or not, wouldn’t be without precedent. George Karl won 57 games for the Denver Nuggets in 2013, only to be fired after winning the Coach of the Year Award. Ujiri was part of the management team which made that decision.
Awards aren’t enough to save jobs. Only post-season success can do that. Casey hasn’t had enough of it in his seven seasons in Toronto, and �it sounds like the Raptors are willing to risk losing him in order to find someone who can take them to the next level.