Dwane Casey can breathe a sigh of relief knowing his role as head coach of the Toronto Raptors is secure, at least for the time being.
New general manager Masai Ujiri said on Wednesday that Casey will be back for the final year of his contract. That decision may not have caught many people by surprise, but Casey says he didn’t dismiss uncertainty surrounding his job that came with Ujiri’s arrival.
“There’s always doubt,” Casey said at a press conference at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. “When you see coaches like George (Karl), Lionel (Hollins), those colleagues lose their jobs, there’s always doubt.”
Casey also witnessed a shake-up within his own organization over the past month.
Bryan Colangelo, the former Raptors GM who announced in April that Casey would be back in his head coaching role for the 2013-2014 season, was ousted from his own position and replaced by Ujiri a month later.
The 56-year-old Casey said a fear of failure has kept him going.
“That’s what motivates me, and I hope that’s what motivates our players,” he said. “I’ve never taken anything for granted, whether it was this job or any job I’ve had. I’m always fearing failure. I always want to do a good job and that’s what I work for.”
Casey joined the Raptors in 2011 after winning the NBA championship as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks. But since becoming a head coach in Toronto he has managed a 57-91 record.
The Raptors, who began their 2012-2013 campaign full of promise after signing young Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas and acquiring Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields through trades during the off-season, finished the season with a 34-48 record and missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
Casey hopes this year will be different.
With a new GM in place, Casey says he’s excited to begin preparing for the upcoming season alongside Ujiri, a man who he’s known for years.
“I know what Masai is about,” Casey said. “He’s about a lot of the same things that I stand for — the toughness, playing hard, being accountable — all of the things it takes to win.
“What I want to do, what is my vision and his vision, is to get to where it’s a constant, where you’re in the playoffs, and build a program that’s going to be sustainable over the test of time.”
According to Casey, he and Ujiri have already begun that process together, despite any uncertainty surrounding Casey’s job security.
“We’ve spent the last couple weeks, probably since (Ujiri) got the job, talking, texting or emailing almost every single day,” the Raptors coach said. “We share the same outlook, we know what we need to improve on, what direction we need to go to, and the bottom line is to keep developing what we have.
“Our ultimate goal is to develop not just into a team that sneaks into the playoffs, but a team that can consistently say, ’Hey, we have a chance to fight for a championship.“’
As Casey spoke, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs were preparing for Thursday night’s Game 7 NBA finals match-up.
It may be tough to picture Toronto in a do-or-die championship setting right now, but Casey has his sights set high.
“I want to be in that situation with the Raptors one of these days,” he said.