Raptors’ Coach Casey: “A lot of basketball left to play”

Dwane Casey
Dwane Casey

Toronto is currently leading the Atlantic division and in second place in the Eastern Conference.  Some say that the Raptors and Cleveland have separated themselves from the rest of the conference, but Coach Dwane Casey warns that such talk is premature.

“It’s too early,” he told the MSR.  “A lot of basketball left to play.”

Casey is the club’s eighth overall head coach since 2011, and fourth Black to lead the team. He surpassed current Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell as the Raptors’ all-time winningest coach.

He is also the last Wolves coach to post a winning season record before he was fired midway through the 2007 season. As a player, he played on a NIT champion (1976), a NCAA champion (1978) and as a Dallas assistant coach (2011), a NBA champion.

Through all his noted success, Casey remains humble yet confident in his coaching.

“I’ve always felt good,” he points out. “Ever since I coached at Kentucky [as an assistant coach] and winning championships, I feel I have a good base to know what it takes to win.

“I also know it takes players at whatever level — college or pros [to] win. There’s no lack of confidence…in being prepared. But I feel I’ve gotten better as a coach each and every year I’ve been in the league as a coach.

“Every day I try to do something different as a coach,” continues Casey.

If they maintain the current pace, Casey will lead Toronto to its third consecutive division title. He was named the league’s Eastern Conference coach of the month in January after a 12-2 stretch, and won 11 of 12 games going into the All-Star break.

But the scuttlebutt out there is that if Casey’s Raptors don’t go deep in the playoffs, his job could be in jeopardy. “I don’t ever think about security, the noise [rumors and “hot seat” discussions],” admits Casey. “I’ll be wasting time listening to that and you will…get beat.”

“One thing we’ve done is we’ve gotten better defensively as a group,” said the head coach.  He points to the team’s “defensive disposition” as a prime example. “That has helped us tremendously.

“We have a lot of areas we still need to get better,” said Casey. “Our defense has to get better. Guarding the three-ball has to be better. We have to get out and challenge the 4 and 5 [on the perimeter]. We have to be able to handle the physicality.”

Finally, after living in such places as Seattle, Dallas, the Twin Cities, Japan and now Toronto, the Kentucky native, his wife and two young children “love the city,” concludes Casey. “I think the country of Canada has the reputation throughout the year of being a place of equality and you feel that from people.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.