Raptors not all-in on Dwane Casey's future, evaluating team
ABS-CBN Sports on May 10, 2018 08:49 AM
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 1: The Toronto Raptors huddle before the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One of Round Two of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 1, 2018 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
By Ian Harrison, Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — Raptors head coach Dwane Casey knows this much about his future in Toronto: his key to the gym still works.
Right now, that’s all Casey can say for certain after meeting with Toronto President Masai Ujiri Wednesday morning (Thursday, PHL time), with little else clear about the coach’s outlook with the organization.
Ujiri said Casey has been “unbelievable for our organization” but declined to make a firm commitment about Casey’s future, saying he needed more time to evaluate the entire team.
“We’re evaluating everything and that’s how we’re going to leave it,” Ujiri said. “It’s my responsibility as a leader to do that and we’ll go from there.”
It was the first time Casey and Ujiri spoke to reporters since Toronto was swept out of the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season. Ujiri talked about his uncertainty regarding Casey’s future the same day Casey was named coach of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association. The award is voted on by NBA head coaches. A media panel voted separately for the NBA’s coach of the year award, which will be announced June 25.
Ujiri’s wait-and-see approach didn’t appear to bother Casey, who said he was aware of the questions about his job but didn’t need Ujiri to provide a public backing.
“I haven’t gone looking for a vote of confidence or anything like that because no one is saying anything different,” Casey said. “Until they do, I’m still here, still fighting, still scratching, still meeting with players. That’s all I can do. Nobody has changed my key card, the door still opens. I’ve had some meetings with Masai talking about what we can do better next year to get over the hump.”
It’s not uncommon for Ujiri to withhold definitive support for a head coach — he also declined to address Casey’s status after last year’s sweep.
Ujiri said the Raptors are “absolutely disappointed” at their playoff exit after a franchise-record 59 wins in the regular season gave Toronto the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history. That came after Ujiri demanded a “culture reset” last spring, leading a greater emphasis on ball movement, depth, and three-point shooting.
“In the regular season there was good success,” Ujiri said. “Going from last year to this year, we’re happy with the jump we made, with some of the things we said we wanted to do. We got stuck at a certain point.”
While playoff results may suggest otherwise, Casey insisted “the gap is closing” between the Raptors and Cavaliers, who ousted Toronto form the postseason for the third year in a row.
“A lot of folks have run up against Cleveland in the last few years and had the same challenge and it went down the same way,” Casey said. “That’s the mountain this organization has to climb.”
Ujiri bristled about the Raptors being the butt of jokes about their long-running struggles with the Cavs, who have won 10 straight postseason games against Toronto.
“We believe in what we’re doing here,” Ujiri said. “We believe in the growth. We’re relevant now in the NBA. And when you get relevant, now you have to meet the challenges, every day, of expectations and growing, getting bigger, and winning. And that’s what we’re going to try and do.”