Last week, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri said his first order of business was to get a contract worked out to keep Dwane Casey as head coach. That's come to fruition today, as Casey has signed a 3-year, $18 million extension, according to The Vertical.
Toronto has reached agreement on a three-year, $18M contract extension with coach Dwane Casey, league source tells @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 2, 2016
Casey has a 210-184 regular season record in five seasons as the Raptors head coach, and has taken the team to three straight playoffs. He has the most wins in franchise history and has the best winning percentage of any Toronto coach (.533).
While this became expected news over the last week, as Casey proved to play a starring role in getting the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals despite a key injury to Jonas Valanciunas, it's easy to forget that he could've very easily been fired during this playoff run. Rumours have flown around, namely sourced from ESPN, that if the Raptors had lost their first round series to the Indiana Pacers, Casey would have been the first casualty.
While there are fair criticisms to be made of Casey, such as his late clock play-calling and his rigid regular season rotation, he proved to be more flexible in this year's playoffs than in the past. When it was apparent that Luis Scola wasn't giving the team much in the starting lineup, he shifted Patrick Patterson in and the team prospered. He wasn't afraid to give Norman Powell some shine when he was effective, which gave him the opportunity to be a breakout performer in a pivotal Game 5 against Indiana. When Valanciunas went down, he tightened the rotation to remove backup bigs who weren't giving the team anything, which helped them finish off Miami and compete against Cleveland.
Casey was also surrounded by an excellent team of assistants this year, who helped him implement a defense that was much improved in taking advantage of the team's players. By ICEing the pick and roll, Valanciunas went from total liability to solid rim protector, developing into a two-way force in his healthy playoff games. While the news on which assistants will return, there's no question that having Andy Greer, Rex Kalamian, Jerry Stackhouse, and Nick Nurse by his side this year helped, and will continue to in the future if some or all of them stick around.
Finally, extending Casey tosses an olive branch to something that's become a rarity in today's NBA: coaching continuity. Only Gregg Popovich, Randy Carlisle, and Erik Spoelstra have been with their teams longer than Casey has, and the carnival ride of rotating coaches has become even more pronounced in the years since he's joined the team. An astounding 17 NBA teams now have coaches hired in the last two years, over half the league, which shows how easy it's become to blame coaching and hit the reset button.
For Ujiri and the Raptors to resign Casey, it shows how they value a coherent, consistent voice in their locker room. Casey is a well-liked guy by his players, by the media, and around the NBA. His coaching has improved as his team has as well. He's grown more flexible, more fearless, and this extension feels like a bit of well-earned recognition from the Raptors.
What are your thoughts on this Casey news?