New Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey is never going to hammer home his point with histrionics or shouting, but if he can get the historically defensively inept Raptors to care a bit about stopping the other team, it won’t matter how he makes his point.
“I’m not a tyrant, there’s no question,” Casey said. “It’s a situation where you’re making sure guys do their jobs and it’s all about winning and it’s not about self-satisfaction or doing it my way or the highway or anything like that.
“It’s about building a program that’s going to last.”
That is Casey’s charge this season and it will be how he is judged. The season began with a 104-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday and continues with the team’s home opener on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
Casey vows not to get too frustrated with a relatively young team that needs as much teaching as it does fine-tuning, and the players, through a short training camp and preseason, seem willing to buy in. But it is perhaps Casey’s personality that makes it possible; he is soft-spoken and treats the players with respect.
“I can’t speak highly enough about him,” guard Jerryd Bayless said. “He brings a certain focus that we didn’t have last year. His philosophy on defence and offence is, both things win games.”
Down the stretch in Monday’s win over the Cavaliers, Casey relied heavily on third-year shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, the club’s second-leading scorer behind Andrea Bargnani last season. It signalled a change in philosophy.
“This is not a democracy offensively,” Casey said. “We want to make sure we get the ball where we want it to go. This is not a my-turn game. It’s not a rec-league game. We want to make sure our offensive players who are closers get the basketball.”
Casey is a former head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, but says he is a different guy in his second head-coaching stint.
“I’m far more confident in what I want to do,” he said. “My first time around, I have a veteran team who had been to the conference final, a winning team. Without the same personnel [as the first Minnesota team] they wanted to do some of the same things.
About the Raptors, Casey said: “This is my personality, this team is my personality, [they have]a defensive focus, so I’m far more confident this time around in my decisions and how I want to do it.”
A graduate of the University of Kentucky, where he began his coaching career as an assistant in 1979, Casey got the Timberwolves job prior to the 2005-2006 season, compiling a 53-69 record before being fired in January of 2007. He was an assistant a last season for the champion Dallas Mavericks.