“Fired” always seems like a harsh and ruthless word. And it stayed that way, for me at least, when Raptors president Masai Ujiri took his seat at the podium to explain today’s Dwane Casey decision.
Emotional and measured, Ujiri praised Casey and thanked him profusely, even as he outlined the need to move forward. He noted the need to give Casey an opportunity to look at other openings.
“In some ways, I think the time has come, [you know sometimes] these things come to an end. Relationships come to an end,” Ujiri said. “We’ll figure out a way to move on with a new voice, new everything in terms of that position.”
Calling it “the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life”, Ujiri said that he wasn’t sure if he could honestly say he’d work with a better person in his life, even later promoting Casey’s candidacy for Coach of the Year.
“In terms of collaboration, I don’t think I’ll work with a better person, maybe my dad,” Ujiri said. “This guy is phenomenal, a listener, a learner, a performer, and a real person.”
Ujiri made clear he’d do due diligence in hiring a new coach, looking at the Raptors’ assistants as well as external candidates, young and old. “I’m open. We’ll look everywhere,” said Ujiri. “I’m not ruling out anything. We’re looking at 50 people. We’ll have hopefully a good people.
In an interesting turn of events though, Ujiri noted that this decision did not include stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It’ll be something worth keeping an eye on, depending on whether the Raptors hire someone internally, or look outside the organization. (And of course, we’ll have to see if both even stay in Toronto for next season.)
Sometimes, business can just be business. Other times, it gets personal. Either way, this is new territory for Masai Ujiri and it looks like he is ready to take the next step in Toronto.