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Should the Raptors Fire Triano? Does It Even Matter?

As the season winds down, many Raptors' fans are wondering if Jay Triano shouldn't be canned.  The HQ wonders if that question though is even relevant.


Apparently there's another hot-button topic in Raptorland besides Andrea Bargnani, and it's the future of Jay Triano.

This morning I polled our HQ audience regarding the Raptors' coach's future, and while 41 per cent think he should be canned come end of season, it's not exactly a clear-cut situation.

About an even 30/30 split believe that he either shouldn't be fired, or that there are a lot bigger issues associated with the team's performance this season than simply what the coaching staff has or has not done.

The comments reflect this, and the discussion on the site yesterday backed this variety of opinions too.

In fact it was the reader comments yesterday that urged me to pen this afternoon's little piece.

Yes, the Raps have indeed perfected "a losing recipe" this season so to speak, but how much of this actually falls on the coaching staff?  Haven't guys like Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan taken big steps forward, while others like Jerryd Bayless and Joey Dorsey shown some signs?  Or does that simply mean that while the club has done a good job in developing talent, it has failed in terms of turning that development into wins?

It's an interesting situation, and injuries this year have further muddied the waters regarding just where the "bad coaching" argument starts, and the "lack of talent" argument stops.

However I want to remind everyone that we've seen this movie before.

In 2008, Sam Mitchell was fired as coach of the team after winning only 8 of the first 17 games of the season.  If you recall, the hammer came down after a 132 to 93 road loss to the Denver Nuggets.

The argument was that Mitchell's team was severely underperforming at that point, and Raptors' GM Bryan Colangelo called the beat down at the hands of the Nuggs, the "final straw."

Said Colangelo:

"Obviously, last night's game was just an absolute kick to the gut."  "When you look back, it's a culmination of things.  Expectations are high.  We want to win."

However people forget that the team that year was plagued with injuries too to start the campaign.

Jermaine O'Neal was trying to get his game back, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon battled some injury issues, and most importantly, Hassan Adams showed up to camp out of shape.

As well, and I'd argue more importantly, Toronto was trying to back Jose Calderon up with the gruesome-twosome of Roko Ukic and Will Solomon.  Sure injuries played a part, but the talent just wasn't there.

Should Mitchell have been canned?

In my opinion, he shouldn't have been extended in the first place, but obviously the "Coach of the Year" award forced Colangelo's hand.

However while I didn't think he was the best coach, I was adamant that Mitchell was not the main problem with the team, and that a new coach wouldn't have much more luck in terms of winning games.

Sure enough, three seasons later, the club has 20 wins.

Is the current iteration of the Raptors a much-less talented bunch?

At face value you would have to say that's the case as the DInos are missing many of the bigger names from that club, like Bosh and O'Neal.

However the reality is that the average PER for the 2008-09 club pre-Marion trade was 13.08, while this year's club's pre-James Johnson PER sits at 14.03.

Both are hardly great marks considering the league average is 15, but one could surmise that we're not talking about a huge gap in talent between the two groups.

In fact when you look at the average PER of the starting five that year (Bosh, Calderon, O'Neal, Parker and Moon) versus this year (Bargnani, Evans, Kleiza, DeRozan and Calderon), it becomes quite evident that while the 2008-09 team had the superior starting five, this year's group has the much deeper and more talented bench, hence the higher overall average PER mark.

Really, the point of this exercise is simply to note that neither team was a very good basketball club, and while the coaching staff has gone through various iterations (remember our good friend Marc Iavaroni?), the one constant has been a team by and large devoid of basic talent.

And this falls on Bryan Colangelo and his brain-trust.

Therefore the Jay Triano situation in my opinion, is a bit of a moot point.

Do I think he should be fired?

Wouldn't a better question be, "would it make a difference if he was?"

To me this team hasn't been killed by coaching decisions, but by a steady stream of shall we say, "overly optimistic views of talent."

Jermaine O'Neal.

Hedo Turkoglu.

Andrea Bargnani.

Roko Ukic.

Linas Kleiza

Fred Jones

And those are just some of the main names here, we're not even going to touch on guys like PJ Tucker and Nathan Jawai, less focal but nonetheless disappointments.

To me, you can spin the coaching debate any way you want, but until this team starts making much better personnel decisions, hiring the next Phil Jackson won't amount to much.

If the talent isn't there, there's only so much a coach can do.

However I don't want this to be misread as a defence of the job Jay Triano and his crew have done either.

There's simply no excuse for the complete lack of defensive improvement this season, and it's a pretty sad state of affairs when you look across many of the league's statistical categories.

The Raps don't place very high in the vast majority of them, and really that should come as no surprise considering the club is on pace for its third lowest win total in franchise history.

No to me, instead of a heated debate over Triano's future, the real discussion should be focused further up the corporate ladder, all the way perhaps to MLSE and its ownership.  (Especially with rumours of MLSE's possible sale.)

Because while the on-court product is certainly a mess, until the boardroom situation is straightened out, it's going to be pretty hard to get this ship back on course, regardless of who the on-deck captain is.