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NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri kisses Dwane Casey

Raptors Coach Casey Reminds Doubters Don’t Poke The Bear

The Toronto Raptors did what was expected of them by the rational followers of this team, defeating a tough Indiana Pacers team in Game Seven and advancing to play the Miami Heat in the second round on Tuesday back at the Air Canada Centre. An ecstatic president and general manager Masai Ujiri kissed head coach Dwane Casey on the head just after his coach reminded the doubting local media they should make sure the bear is dead before they poke it.

“First of all, I want to see everybody’s stories that they wrote before the game,” Casey said. “I already told Bruce, back in Kentucky you want to make sure that that bear is dead laying there. If you want to poke it, you better make sure he’s dead. I think everybody wrote the Raptors off and gave us up for dead, but that locker room is full of fighters and scrappers and guys that are really getting into it. Again, as I told them it’s a marathon, but I’m happy for those young men in there. I read some of the stuff, now only here but around the Country about how Indiana was going to win and the Raptors were going to do this. I love that because I think our guys use that as motivation, use it as fuel to fight, to scrap.”

Bruce Arthur, who Casey was pointing out had wrote, “Sunday is a referendum”

However, prior to the game Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun was suggesting Casey would be fired with a loss in Game Seven.

Dwane Casey understands the tightrope walk he is on and how wobbly Game 7 has made his future. He is all too aware of the business of his game and how quickly perception can change.

Lose and maybe he gets the Bruce Boudreau treatment, the see-you-later handshake, fired after five seasons of increasing wins and, with them, expectations.

Ignoring the massive backlash the Raptors ownership, primarily Rogers, would face if they had the nerve to mess with another of their sports properties management teams after what has gone on with the Blue Jays this season, the Sun’s Ryan Wolstat piled on, talking about the fate of certain players in addition to predicting Casey and even Ujiri’s possible demise.

Despite Ujiri’s pre-playoff vote of confidence and playing down of expectations, it is impossible to imagine Casey would be back, even though he deserves to be.

– there is no doubt it will be a referendum.

On DeMar DeRozan. On Kyle Lowry. On Dwane Casey, Terrence Ross and even Masai Ujiri

Sportsnet’s Micheal Grange asked the question without answering it,

Tomorrow night matters.

It matters for all kinds of reasons. Casey’s contract is up and DeRozan will be a free agent this summer

If the Raptors fall short again what follows will be an extraordinary test of Ujiri’s vision and patience.

To say there was no pressure on Casey and the Raptors players would be beyond misleading, the pressure of Game Seven was intense and Ujiri didn’t just kiss Casey afterwards, he was heard shouting, “There goes that monkey.” Until a team wins a seven game playoff series, they haven’t done it. The Raptors should be better in the future because of this win.

Coach Casey has won more games each season since he took over five years ago and for the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won more than 50 games in a season and finished higher than third place in their conference. Things have never been this good for basketball in Toronto, so not surprisingly, Ujiri made it unequivocally clear that Casey would be back next season no matter what happened in the postseason and he was pleased with the progress of his team.

After taking a team to a completely unforeseen 56 win regular season, you’d think the guy would have earned a little slack and a lot of respect from the media that covers him. Ujiri has always said what he meant, and meant what he said. Win or lose, Casey’s job wasn’t on the line in Game Seven against the Pacers.

Winner of the Professional Basketball Writers Association 2015-16 Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors a coach for his cooperation with the media and fans, as well as his excellence on the court, Casey has a good relationship with the local media. He can poke the media bear and get away with it because of the effort he puts into being available and cooperative. Sometimes it hard to figure out why the media wants to poke back?



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




4 thoughts on “Raptors Coach Casey Reminds Doubters Don’t Poke The Bear

  1. Steve Effer

    The way Coach Casey handles the media and handles his players publicly not only shows what a professional he is, but what kind of person he is. We are lucky to have him in our city. And now you are seeing his next evolution of coaching. He’s allowing his assistant coaches and players to offer input.
    Sometimes good guys dont finish last.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for this story! Coach’s family is elated! It hurts to see him (Dwane), work as hard as he does in a career that’s been his lifelong passion, be diminished by keyboard strokes by so many! He is “our” super hero, come what may! We Love you, Coach!

  3. George Postalian

    This IS the harsh reality of professional sports in today’s era. The media, fan base and with some ownership – has short term memory which dominates their minds, emotions, comments and decision making.

    With absolutely no disrespect to the extraordinary results this team achieved during the regular season every interview response by the players and coaches throughout the 2015-16 season was about the “bigger” picture (i.e. the playoffs) and not about winning 50+ games or winning the Eastern Conference or winning the Atlantic Division.

    The HUGE monkey has been lifted off this entire organisations back and I’m fully well expecting to see a far more relaxed, freer flowing, confident team take on Miami in the 2nd round.

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