Last night’s victory over the Indiana Pacers was a big one for Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
The win was the 200th of Casey’s tenure with the team, making him the first coach in franchise history to win 200 games with the team.
He already owns the franchise record for victories, so hitting 200, a bit of an arbitrary but nicely round number, gives him yet another line for his resume. He’s also one of just five coaches in the NBA with 200 wins with their current club, joining Gregg Popovich, Frank Vogel, Erik Spoelstra, and Rick Carlisle. That speaks in part to longevity, but Casey’s the lone above-.500 coach the team’s had with a 200-179 record, good for a .528 winning percentage.
For his career – Casey coached the Minnesota Timberwolves for a season-and-a-half in 2005-06 and 2006-07 – Casey is now 253-248. That ranks him 78th in all-time coaching wins. If the Raptors were to end the season on an 8-7 run, he’d end the year in 74th. There ain’t no security in this line of work, it seems, if a coach sitting around .500 with fewer than seven seasons coached is already pushing up the leaderboard, but that’s the profession.
Casey and the Raptors are now at 46-21, three wins from tying the team’s best regular season ever, a mark set just last year. By the end of the season, Casey will have been at the helm for the best regular season in franchise history in three consecutive years, leading what’s been easily the best regular season era for the Raptors. Of course, the team’s also been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two years, and nobody, Casey probably included, gives much of a damn about regular season success right now.
Should he lead the Raptors to a playoff victory – their first in a seven-game series ever – Casey would cement himself as the best (or at least most successful) Raptors coach ever. That might hold true even in a playoff loss, but there’s little chance Casey would survive another first-round exit. That would simply be too tough a sell publicly, and weird thought it might be to let a coach walk coming off of a top-five finish in Coach of the Year voting, that’s probably the reality he’s facing.
And yes, he’s going to finish in the top five in voting for that award. You can make a case for him to be even higher, but I think Terry Stotts, Steve Kerr, and Popovich grab the top three in some order, with Brad Stevens rounding out the top five with Casey. Casey gets a bad rap from readers, and looking around the entire NBA, every team’s coach gets a bad rap from the fanbase – there’s simply no being objective from a league-wide perspective when you get to see every single decision a coach makes. A lean on one-on-one attacks late in games (as much a personnel-based choice as a philosophical one), keeping Luis Scola in the starting lineup, and a failure to adjust in the last two playoff series all conspire to draw fan ire, but in truth, Casey’s an average to slightly above-average coach when zoomed out.
He’s proven an excellent 82-game coach (he’s very good at managing the macro, if not the micro), he’s adjusted his systems to better suit his personnel, and he’s even grown more flexible in playing young players and getting his stars a bit of rest, something he hadn’t shown in years past. That’s all good for a first 50-win season, but as mentioned, Casey’s going to be measured by his next playoff series. That’s perhaps a bit unfair, but it’s also entirely reasonable from the perspective of the organization, who own a team option on him for next year.
For now, let’s just give Casey a little dap for the three best regular seasons the team’s ever had.
Note: Sorry I didn’t get this up last night. The site went down around 1 a.m., and with the Biyombo records post, the quick reaction, the podcast, and today’s game preview, I didn’t get a chance to get to this until now. My apologies.