The Toronto Raptors Get Their Man in Coach Casey


The HQ's Sean Tepper gives his quick take on yesterday's coaching announcement by the Toronto Raptors...

One of the National Basketball Association's worst defensive units is about to get a complete makeover, as the Toronto Raptors confirmed Tuesday that they have hired Dwane Casey to be their new head coach.

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo introduced Casey to the Toronto media less than two weeks after the 54-year-old Kentuckian helped the Dallas Mavericks claim their first NBA championship in franchise history.

"Dwane's 16-plus years in NBA coaching circles working with some tremendous basketball mentors coupled with his proven ability as a defensive architect will serve as a great backdrop for the future approach of this team," said Colangelo. 

Taking over for Jay Triano after a disappointing 2010-11 campaign, Casey, who has been waiting for a second-chance to be a head coach since being dismissed by the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2006-07 season, comes armed with an impressive defensive resume after creating successful defensive schemes against the likes LaMarcus Aldridge, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and most recently LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.     

"One thing that I do plan to do here in the upcoming season is to help this team develop an NBA defensive identity," said Casey.

So how does Casey plan to turn-around a defence that allowed 105 points per game and ranked 30th in the league in defensive efficiency last season?

"I want guys to come in and be excited to play defence," he said. "I don't want it to be a job."

In addition to that, Casey promised that all of his drills in practices will have a defensive connotation to them and he made it abundantly clear exactly how he plans on instilling a defensive upon his new team.

"Defensively, I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak," he said. "Offensively, I'm going to trust [the players] and give them freedom."

While it is true that defence wins championships, Casey acknowledged that offence wins games and insisted that the Raptors will continue to play the free-flowing playoff style of offense that Triano implemented last season.

"The last time I checked, the reason why you win games is scoring, so we're going to put a high premium on that too," he said. "We want to keep the pace up tempo with our young team because we have the athleticism."

Even though he is no longer on the teams' coaching staff, Casey said that he plans on using Triano as a resource to help him develop his core group of young talent which includes guards DeMar DeRozan, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless and forwards Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson.

While it was rumoured that Casey was competing against former Timberwolves coach and current Boston Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank, Colangelo said that his mind was almost made up after he got an interesting call from Rick Carlisle at 1:30 a.m. on the eve of the Mavericks' championship.

"They just literally must have just walked out of the building, a few beers and a few glasses of champagne later, I'm sure," Colangelo said. "[Carlisle said] ‘Bryan, I want to know what it's going to take to get Dwane that job in Toronto. It's right for him, it's right for you, it's right for the situation."

Whether or not you believe him to be the saviour of Canada's only basketball team, you have to admit that Dwane Casey was a great hiring for a franchise that has never been a real playoff threat in their 16-year existence,  He said all the right things yesterday, has one of the better resumes of the coaches that were available, and comes into the job with more meaningful coaching experience (32 years worth total) than anyone this side of Lenny Wlkens.

Although many people blast the Raptors for their poor defensive play,the fact of the matter is that the Dinos are still a young enough and impressionable enough team that have Casey will have the opportunity to instil a defensive system easily enough.

With that being said, the players that he will be working with in Toronto does not come close to the ones he was used to working with in Dallas.

Although he puts in the most effort out of anyone on the team, Jose Calderon is an open book on defence, while the franchise's alleged "centerpiece," Andrea Bargnani refuses to rebound and is one of the worst defensive big-men in the entire NBA. However, the Raptors' young and inexperienced core of Johnson, DeRozan, Davis and Bayless proved that they are still young and raw, but they are at the stage of their career where they can still be taught.

Maybe Casey won't be able to fix the Raptors' defensive woes, maybe the Raptors' roster is just too bad to work with or maybe Casey is just the man needed to invigorate a franchise that is in desperate need of some success.

Regardless of what you may think, of all the candidates that applies for the job, Casey has the best shot at turning the Raptors into a competitive franchise and it is for that reason that I am extremely excited that Casey will be at the helm of the 2011-12 Toronto Raptors.    

SEAN TEPPER

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