Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
Just nearly two weeks ago, the Toronto Raptors won their first round series in the 2018 NBA playoffs against the Washington Wizards in six games. The next opponent in their path to get a chance to play for an NBA Championship was the Cleveland Cavaliers. At that time, things in Toronto were amazing. The mood was great, the positivity was high, until "The King" LeBron James and the Cavaliers swept them, leading to an insurmountable change no one saw coming.
On Friday morning, the Toronto Raptors had fired their head coach Dwane Casey. A move not a lot of people saw coming just less then 48 hours after both Casey and Raptors’ president, Masai Ujiri held their season ending press conferences. The respective conferences were nearly an hour apart, but the mood between them was the same. With Casey being first at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, he jokingly said “No one has told me differently; my key card still works” – (to the Raptors’ Biosteel practice facility where the conference was held) as he showed a bit of smile. The Dwane Casey press conference didn’t last longer than 15 minutes. Although it was short, he did state himself and Masai had met multiple times for long periods ever since being swept, including meeting for two hours before the press conference that morning.
Then it was Ujiri’s turn. Although it took just over an hour for Masai to step to the podium, he didn’t wait long to get down to business. He stated that the he had no intentions in blowing up things in Toronto and that tanking is not an option. He continued to state the praise towards his All-Stars in Lowry and DeRozan for their efforts throughout this historic season, as well as the prolonged “Bench Mob.”
After those conferences wrapped up, it was a quite next 48 hours or so until the huge bomb shell was dropped early Friday morning at around 11 a.m. where the team announced Dwane Casey has been released from his duties as the Toronto Raptors’ head coach. “After careful considerations, I have decided this is a very difficult decision but necessary step the franchise must take” is what Masai Ujiri said following the firing of Casey. Casey was named the Raptors’ eighth head coach in the team’s history back in June of 2011. He posted a 320-238 winning record with the team in seven years, including three 50-win seasons.
“The hardest thing I’ve done in my life” but “it was time for this to happen” Masai Ujiri adds and rightfully so. The bond between the two was strong. It didn’t take long for the news to get out around the league as reporters asked the head coach of the Boston Celtics Brad Stevens what he thought of the firing. “It’s disappointing from the stand point of the coaching perspective” said Stevens, adding that Casey is “a role model.”
Not only did the news spread around the league very quickly, but we also heard what Kyle Lowry had to say about the news, stating “Casey is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but he let me be me...He was huge for my growth as a man and an NBA player. They (Ujiri and General Manager Bobby Webster) made a decision and for me, as a leader of the organization, it’s my job to support the decision that Masai and Bobby made.”
Near the end of the brief press conference held by Masai Ujiri on the firing of Dwane Casey, Ujiri said he won’t state what he’s looking for in the head coaching position as of yet. Although it didn’t take long for the reports to get out there, that Mike Budenholzer - former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks - has been a top candidate for the job, it was also reported that the assistant coaches in Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse could also be front runners for the position. Jerry Stackhouse who led the Raptors’ G-League team to a championship in 2017 is also in consideration.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Raptors’ fans these past few days and it isn’t done just yet. As of now, the rumbles out of the Raptors’ organization has quieted down, but don’t expect that for long. A new head coach could be named when you least expect it.
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