With the Toronto Raptors re-branding the franchise, one has to wonder how long Dwane Casey will be coaching the team moving forward.
The Raptors are entering one of the most unpredictable seasons in the team’s history as Toronto will either make a strong push to make the playoffs or quickly blow up the roster to start another rebuild.
Coach Casey will begin the year on the hot seat, and a poor start will undoubtedly result in his firing. Justified or not, General Manager Masai Ujiri will pull the trigger early on firing Casey if the team stumbles once the season tips-off. Too much is riding on this season for there to be a slow start like Raptor fans saw last year.
Perhaps the biggest question heading into the 2013-14 season is what Ujiri will do with Rudy Gay, who can opt out of his contract at the end of the year. If Toronto storms out of the gates and manages to legitimately look like a potential playoff team, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Ujiri offers Gay an extension.
However, if the team struggles then Ujiri could opt to bring in a new coach and attempt to salvage the season before they dig themselves into a hole too big to climb out of. If the Raptors do end up near the bottom of the standings early in the season, expect Gay trade rumors to surround the team until the trade deadline as fans in the city will be begging for any way to earn a chance to draft Toronto’s own, Andrew Wiggins.
The thing working against Casey more than anything is his lack of success since joining the team. Unlike previous coaches like Sam Mitchell and Kevin O’Neill, Casey appears to be well liked by the media and his players. Unfortunately, that doesn’t carry much weight when it comes to coaching in the NBA. If it did then Jay Triano would still be with the franchise. However, it might buy Casey some time since there won’t be people lining-up outside the Air Canada Centre demanding his head like they were for O’Neill, but the window to succeed still won’t be great.
The other thing working against Casey is he wasn’t hired by Ujiri. It’s common knowledge when a new general manager takes over a franchise, he normally likes to bring in his own coach. Since Casey was hired by former General Manager Bryan Colangelo, some believe Ujiri is not only using the upcoming season to see what he has on the roster, but also to see what he has in his current coach. If the Raptors elect to opt for another rebuild, it’s likely Ujiri will start by rebuilding the coaching staff before moving on to reshaping the roster.
The pressure will be at max level for Casey and the Raptors to succeed early. The coach has proven he can get the team to play solid defensively when he’s allowed to coach the team the way he wants to. Many believe the team struggled early last season because Colangelo wanted the focus to be more on the offense, with the team getting out and running the ball more often. Offense first isn’t Casey’s style of coaching. As an assistant coach and the architect of the 2010-11 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks’ defense, Casey proved he is at his best when focusing on defense first.
By all accounts, it appears Ujiri will allow Casey to coach the team the way he wants to. However, how long Casey will be around to coach the team is going to be one of the biggest storylines heading into the new season.