Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
For the first time in 182 days, Dwane Casey will once again play inside the home of the Toronto Raptors; not as the team’s coach, but that of the opposition.
The former Coach of The Year is set to make his appearance in Toronto for the first time since being fired on May the 11th. Casey, currently head coaching the Detroit Pistons - a team that sits at an even 6-6 record in the Eastern Conference - have been flooded with some high expectations from fans out of Detroit saying that this is a year that this team could finish top six in the East and could make a decent run into the playoffs.
It’s set to be an emotional night at Scotiabank Arena, but players and management are not trying to get caught up in the emotions, not even the former Coach of The Year. But it’s hard to not think about. In an interview with Casey and CBC on Monday, he said he woke up that morning thinking about this upcoming game against his former team. Not because of his seven-year coaching stint with them, but because the Pistons are fresh off a 10-point loss to the Hornets on Sunday. Casey stated,
“the reason I say I woke up this morning is because we stubbed our toe against Charlotte, and I thought about who we have next and it has to be the Toronto Raptors, and I thought 'Oh my goodness, they're a good team.”
Casey also added how he’d be lying if the feeling of playing against his former team won’t be a bit weird -
"It will be different being on that side of the bench, but I would be disingenuous to say it's not going to feel funny. Any human being worth his salt will say it'll be a different feeling, a funny feeling, but I think once the game starts and they throw it up, it will be one of 82 and I'm sure it's going to be the same for the players from the other side too."
President of the Raptors, Masai Ujiri, who had been with Casey in Toronto from 2013 stated that Casey…
"was really important for me, he was really important for us, he was almost a father figure for our organization with his steadiness and his sense of calm. He was a big reason for the success we’ve had the past five years, and we needed that in this city, a period like that."
Both Ujiri and Casey were a part of this organization when times weren’t the best. But they started from the very bottom and worked their way up together and made this Raptors team what they are today.
Jonas Valanciunas said “it will be strange, being with him, playing for the same team for a long time.” Casey was brought into the head coaching role to Toronto in 2011, the same year Valanciunas was drafted 5th overall. A whole seven season together is a long time, and one word all the players have used in answers to the questions about Casey’s return is “grow.” Kyle Lowry was the main focus at the end of shoot-around due to the fact he was one of the main guys who had been with Casey throughout his coaching tenure.
“I’m not looking forward to seeing coach tomorrow. It’s weird. It’s going to be different. I’ve had the opportunity to play with him for six years, got to know him really well and got to see him grow as a coach. He got to help me grow to be an All-Star […] through all the success we had, as an organization with him here and individually it’s going to be different but we have to go out there and win the game.”
Without looking up the stats, awards, and endless accomplishments, Casey has broken records throughout his seven-year career with Toronto. Ever since he signed with the Raptors and the team went an abysmal 23-43 in the shortened lockout season in 2011, everything seemed to get progressively better and better. Rebuilding, getting better each and every game, and putting Toronto on the map of the basketball world year after year was a huge task that Casey accomplished. Casey helped the Raptors in their efforts of making the playoffs for five seasons in a row with three Conference Semi-Finals appearances and one Conference Finals. He has grown with the players, management, and the city.
Tonight will be an emotional night with a ton of buzz around this game, where it is set to be a sold-out crowd in Toronto. Raptors fans been just a little short of par as to being the “best fans in the NBA” as of late; not being loud and getting into the game whatsoever, even with the team being 12-2 and undefeated at home prior to Monday night when Toronto suffered their first loss against New Orleans. The fans were not helping out the team at all. Lowry was asked what he expects from Raptors fans once the video tribute of Dwane Casey is played on the big screen during the first commercial break, in which he simply said “standing ovation. Welcome him with open arms.”
Toronto fans will. I have no doubt of that.
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