Ujiri post-Casey press conference notes: ‘Hardest thing I’ve done in my life’

This was clearly tough for him.

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke with media Friday about the removal of Dwane Casey as the team’s head coach. Here’s a quick look at what he had to say.

An opening statement:

“Thank you for coming-out I just want to use this opportunity to thank Coach Casey. Today was a really difficult day for us in our organization but I just wanted to use this opportunity to thank Casey and his family for a great time he has given us this last five years, seven years in the organization, and five years that I have worked with him. We really do appreciate it and honestly, in some instances I think of this as, in some way, a celebration. Great man, great coach, and a difficult decision to come to. It’s not something we’ve taken lightly. We move on to our next phase with the Toronto Raptors.”

On Casey as potential Coach of the Year:

“I have never done this just to be clear. I have never been in this position to fire a coach and for how he handled this, honestly, in Toronto, in Canada, in the NBA, we should celebrate a guy like this. I hope coach Casey gets Coach of the Year because he deserves it. I saw everything he did here. I saw the job he did this year. He deserves it.”

On the reasoning behind the decision:

“I think in some ways I think the time has come, sometimes these things come to an end, our relationships comes to an end and we’ll figure out a way to move on, a new voice, and just new everything, in terms of that position. It was really, really difficult, to make this, especially in a short time from when the season ended to now, so, nothing in particular that Coach Casey did wrong but I think it was time to, time for this to happen.

On Casey’s reaction, and Casey the person:

“I met with him today. We’ve met every day. We had lunch together yesterday. What an unbelievable human being. It made it just the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Bobby Webster and I went to speak to him. I’ve never met anybody that classy in my life. I can honestly say I don’t know that I will work with a better person…He was just very graceful. He thanked us. He appreciated his time here. Just grateful. Just Casey.

Like I said, in terms of a collaboration, I don’t think I’ll work with a better person — maybe my dad. This guy is phenomenal. A listener, a learner, a performer, a real person. To be honest in our business, you value real people, people that look you in the eye and tell you, and you know what they’re telling you is what they’re telling you. That’s coach Casey, a good man, a good ball coach.”

On the timing of the move:

“I used the last three days to really evaluate, I spent countless hours, I worked with our team, this is not something we take lightly, but also in consideration with Coach Casey and maybe looking at other jobs, you know, give him that chance, be fair that way, that we are not take that chance away, instead of dragging things on.

We start that process right after I’m finished here, so right now to me is about celebrating Casey. I feel we’ll begin to attack that as soon as I leave here.”

On input from the stars:

“I haven’t talked to Kyle and DeMar outside of when I called them to tell them this. I haven’t even done exit interviews with Kyle and DeMar, to be honest with you. I leave with our veterans I have exit interviews with them later on, after the emotions are all done, but I called them to call them that this decision has been made, but no, they are not those type of guys, they don’t come and tell me, there’s no negativity in our organization like that. To be honest, there was no conversation. Nothing like that.

You could tell everybody’s, sense of emotion, you can feel there is…There’s five years of bond here, with all these players that’s the coach they know, this is the coach we know. So you can actually like feel it, like every single one I’ve talked to so far. ”

On what he’s looking for in a hire:

“I’m open. We’ll look everywhere. I’m not ruling out anything. We’re looking at 50 people. We’ll have hopefully a good people. I’m going to look at a range, not ruling out anything. We’ll do a thorough job investigating, finding. We’re looking for the right person for the job…Whatever that person is bringing to the table has to be heard by the players, and has to be heard well.

All of them (assistants) are with us for now. I’m going to keep it that way. Obviously some of them will get interviews. We’re going to go through that. I don’t know the specifics. For now they’ll remain with us in their positions.”