After seven seasons with Dwane Casey as their head coach, the Toronto Raptors are moving in another direction. Masai Ujiri revealed the news via press release today, in what’s surely a difficult decision coming right on the heels of a series sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Casey was a great coach. In fact, he may even be the greatest coach (of this season) when the NBA Awards roll around in a few weeks time. The issue was, and continues to be, in-game adjustments and the inability to roll with the punches when opponents change up their strategy. The big picture stuff was never Casey’s problem, he helped mastermind a balance between established players like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and young 905 graduates like Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet. The problem was in the granular moments, when Kevin Love posts up C.J. Miles on four straight trips and the team fails to adjust. It sucks, but here we are.
Though it feels a little dirty to be doing this, with Casey’s body not even cold yet, we must keep the content cycle moving all the same. Here are a list of possible candidates for the Raptors new head coaching job — starting with the most likely.
Bank on the Internal Candidates
Part of Masai Ujiri’s influence on this Raptors team has been to create an outstanding support team of coaching behind Casey. Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse have both been at the forefront of the offensive culture reset, and have been targeted by other teams for head coaching jobs in the last two off-seasons. It would not be shocking, and possibly very prudent, if either one were announced as head coach.
The other internal candidate is, of course, Jerry Stackhouse. While Stackhouse would not be a wild difference in terms of system, he would change the personality of the Raptors head coach position. Stackhouse is a rising star in the world of NBA coaches, especially for how he brings along young players — but would his brash attitude rub veteran players like Kyle Lowry the wrong way? These are the questions Ujiri will have to answer if Stackhouse is considered a candidate.
Making a coaching change relatively early means the door is open for hiring an external candidate. There are plenty of names out there, but which ones are realistic?
Mike Budenholzer is already a name thrown out there by Adrian Wojnarowski, and would be a definitive shift to an offensive mindset.
Woj has connected Mike Budenholzer to Raptors job. His teams play the way Masai wants the Raptors to, but Nurse, Kalamian, Stackhouse all angling for a head coaching gig here or elsewhere.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) May 11, 2018
A veteran of the Atlanta Hawks, Budenholzer probably won’t move the needle much in my opinion — after all, his 60-win Hawks were getting beat soundly by LeBron James before the Raptors made it fashionable.
There’s also the mighty San Antonio Spurs assistant coach ring. Becky Hammon and Ettore Messina are still free agents, while James Borrego has accepted the head coaching job in Charlotte. Ujiri is a forward-thinker, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring Hammon in for an interview. I don’t know how much I buy into the lust over Spurs assistants, but it would certainly see the Raptors leaning further into the culture of San Antonio North.
Big Names, Wild Swings
Finally, there are a couple recent free agents that would really show Ujiri swinging for the fences. Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd, and Stan Van Gundy were all let go at different points this season — does Ujiri risk bringing in a big personality to shake things up? My guess is no. These guys would just be too crazy.
There are other names out there, but we can save any additional guesswork. I’m still a little sore that we won’t be getting any post-game Casey metaphors.