Let’s Stop The Fire-Casey Talk and Rank Some NBA Coaches

There’s been plenty of reasons to be unhappy if you’re a supporter of the club, and Dwane Casey’s coaching could arguably fall into a category of critique.

Ujiri’s on Casey:

“I’ve talked to Dwane Casey a couple of times and we’re going to sit down and I will understand what his philosophies are and I will tell him what my philosophies are and I’ll tell him what I think needs to be changed,” Ujiri said. “For me this organization is going to be like this now (hands together) and we will all be on the same page and have the same goals.”

“For me, Dwane Casey has done a great job but I need to sit down with coach and figure out what his philosophies are and what he’s thinking for the future of this team … I need these 2-3 weeks where coach and I are going to figure out whether this thing is going to go forward for the next year. Right now I don’t see any reason why not.”

From the turbulent roster to the ownership structure, it wouldn’t be difficult to critique the executive decision-making, the on-court product, the marketing mishaps, and just about any other aspect of the Raptors organization over the last few years.  There’s been plenty of reasons to be unhappy if you’re a supporter of the club, and Dwane Casey’s coaching could arguably fall into a category of critique.  The question, however, is given the laundry list of items to address, where does coaching rank?  Is it really a problem that’s holding the Raptors back to the degree where it needs to be addressed this summer?

Obviously, I don’t think so. Casey’s coaching failures haven’t attributed to the malaise this organization is trying to get out of, and if anything, he’s brought the Raptors out of the dark ages that Jay Triano (possibly the worst decision this franchise has ever made) had ushered in. The hilarious 4-guard rotations, the odd use of timeouts, the mad substitutions that see our best players benched in crunch time, and the puzzling playing time distribution (e.g., Ross/Anderson) are mere annoyances that we’ve had to suffer in a season that wasn’t going anywhere to begin with. It’s not like Dwane Casey’s coaching is the reason the Raptors missed the playoffs this year, or the year before. It’s not like he’s perpetuating a negative atmosphere in the clubhouse, is catering to players, or fails to focus on the right things (e.g., defense).

The results haven’t been great, and whenever we talk about results you have to examine the roster before wondering if the coach underperformed. Nobody can tell me with a straight face that, given the quality of the roster, the Raptors underperformed. What we did see was a coach experimenting with different lineups, zone types, and approaches to get something to tick. Sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t, and when it didn’t he was made to look bad. At times, very bad. The playbook looked awfully thin at times and there’s no argument from me on that, but nobody sold him as an offensive coach upon his hire, only one that would correct the wayward effort and introduce, at least conceptually, some element of defense and effort to the team.

I understand the cathartic value of purging Casey and in the name of turning a new page, and also acknowledge that there probably is a better coach for the Raptors out there. However, I can’t seem to pinpoint what crime of Casey would deserve termination. The Raptors had 10 new players at some point on the roster between Casey’s first and second year, and he managed to get 37 wins. He scaled the wins proportional to the talent-injection on the roster.

The Raptors have had their ownership, executive leadership, and basketball management aspects changed, leaving the coaching to be the next logical area of change (leaving marketing, sales aside). I urge restraint from MLSE on this angle on the grounds of mercy and continuity. Will anyone be heartbroken if Dwane Casey gets axed? No. Would he have gotten a fair share in Toronto? No.

For fun, here’s a list of active NBA head coaches that I’ve spent about 15 seconds ranking, is Casey’s ranking fair?

  1. Gregg Popovich
  2. Tom Thibodeau
  3. Doc Rivers
  4. Frank Vogel
  5. Scott Brooks
  6. Lionel Hollins
  7. Erik Spoelstra
  8. Rick Carlisle
  9. Kevin McHale
  10. Larry Drew
  11. Dwane Casey
  12. Mark Jackson
  13. Monty Williams
  14. Mike Woodson
  15. Terry Stotts
  16. Tyrone Corbin
  17. Randy Wittman
  18. Jacque Vaughn
  19. Mike D’Antoni
  20. Mike Brown

New Guys (unranked):

  • Mike Budenholzer
  • Steve Clifford
  • Michael Malone
  • Jeff Hornacek

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