By Frank McLean
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey quietly reached a milestone on their west coast road trip last week when he coached his 500th game with the basketball team.
In his seventh season with the team and following their win this past Sunday at home against Sacramento his won-loss record is an impressive 281-223. Currently they are sitting third in the Eastern Conference with a 20-8 record. They are definitely on pace for a third straight 50 win season and dare we say, maybe 60 wins.
The 20-8 record is impressive because of the tough schedule the NBA came up with. The Raptors have already played 16 road contests, in which they have completed all but three of their west coast visits and have won nine to go with the best home record in the league at 11-1.
The 20-8 mark is a lot better a start than anticipated because the team made a complete 360-degree change in how they play offense with constant ball movement and a lot more three-point attempts.
Looks like to me they caught on a little quicker than what many people thought.
But defense first is still Casey’s first commandment of playing winning basketball and they are in the top-10 in fewest points allowed per 100-poessions. When he came to Toronto, the team was 30th, dead last in defense.
It’s remarkable that into his seventh year as coach Casey has not lost his team. It doesn’t matter what professional sport we are talking about, a head coach’s shelf life is typically slightly longer than a quart of milk sitting in your fridge. Players after a few years just seem to tune them out.
Listen to the testimonials from his current stars.
“It’s been a long, long, long journey. It’s a testament to him sticking to all of his guns and understanding his principles that he came in here with,” said DeMar DeRozan who is the only Raptor left on the roster from Casey’s first season with the team.
“Look at him now, he holds the record for wins and games coached, everything, you’ve got to give him credit for that.”
“Always you face some ups and downs, some bumps, some downhills, but, if you are able to get back and if you are able to stay strong over those bumps, you are real then,” Jonas Valanciunas said of Casey.“He knows what he’s doing, he’s a great dude, he’s a great guy. He’s humble, he’s trying to win. That’s all that matters.”
And this from Kyle Lowry who has bumped heads more than a few times like a son does with his father.
“I don’t think our coach is ever happy, honestly. But that’s the one thing about our coach, he’s hard on us, and he’s tough on us. But we know that he wants us to be a championship calibre team, and that’s what we push for, and that’s why we respond to him so well.”
When you check out social media there are still people demanding that Casey be fired which again proves that it is the worst invention in the history of man when you hear some of the stuff being said… and it’s not just with respect to basketball.
Dwane Casey is the best thing that’s happened to this franchise period.
Casey was hired by former general manager Bryan Colangelo and when Masai Ujiri took over he could have fired Casey and brought in his own man, but he stayed with him and as a result the team has increased its win total from 23 in his initial season to 34 the next year then 48, 49, 56 and 51 last year. The Raptors are on pace to win more than 56 games this season.
If there is somebody better out there go get him, but I don’t see Greg Popovich or Steve Kerr leaving their current jobs.
I don’t think when Casey arrived in Toronto many pundits thought he would last 500 games. Hopefully, he gets another 500 games on the bench and maybe a trip to NBA Finals will finally come about.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.
Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson