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Triano takes act south Add to ...

The main question mark surrounding Jay Triano as Raptors head coach - and I've been one to raise it - is whether or not he's really, truly qualified as the best head coach the Raptors could have at this stage.

Now, coaching is a black art at best, and a long way from a science. So what is qualified, really? Doc Rivers never coached a day in his life before he left broadcasting for the Orlando Magic sidelines, but no one seems to mention that now. Larry Bird did a pretty good job when he was coach of the Indiana Pacers.

Then again coaches like the Van Gundys - lifers and themselves the son of a lifer - are at the other end of the spectrum: guys who started nowhere, grinded it out at lower levels, did clinics and finally got their shot and did well when they got it.

I guess if I could compose a perfect resume for a coach it would look something like Phil Jackson's: A long playing career on great teams, playing for great coaches; an apprenticeship of sorts - in Jackson's case he coached and won in the old CBA before getting a break as an assistant on the Bulls staff and finally taking over for Doug Collins there. He's done well since.

Triano's resume is a bit thin in the sense that he never played in the NBA; his previous head coaching experience - at Simon Fraser University and with the national team - lacks any major successes.

He's had seven years as an NBA assistant, true, and I'm sure he picked up a lot when he was broadcasting for the Vancouver Grizzlies. But unless you count Lenny Wilkens, it's not like he's been mentored by a gallery of hall-of-fame nominees. None of the other coaches he's worked for is a head coach in the NBA and none of his fellow assistants are either. He's only been around two teams that have posted a winning record.

But obviously Bryan Colangelo sees something in him, and he's hired some pretty good coaches over his career. And as someone whose known Triano for a long time, I can speak to his rare combination of competitive steel and general good nature: There's a toughness about him, he just doesn't spend all his time trying to prove it to you. And he's bright.

But perhaps the best independent proof yet that Triano has something significant to offer as a head coach here or elsewhere is his increasingly significant role with USA Basketball.

Beginning Thursday he'll be running USA Basketball's national team mini-camp in Las Vegas where 23 of the top young NBA players will gather for their first taste of the national team program. It's a chance for guys like Anthony Randolph, Kevin Durant, David Lee and others to begin the process of making their national team for events like the World Championships next year or the Olympics in 2012.

It's easy to suggest that it's simply a case of Jerry Colangelo - head of USA Basketball - doing a solid for Bryan by allowing Triano to run the camp. But seriously, given the wealth and breadth of coaching talent in the United States, is it even conceivable that they would provide an opportunity like this to a guy who couldn't handle it? Who didn't have something special to offer?

He does, of course: He played in three Olympics, coached in another and has loads of NBA experience too. Passport or not that's not a typical resume. It's his third summer working with USA Basketball and obviously Coach K doesn't have him back if he's not bringing something to the table.

Today the Raptors are introducing Jarrett Jack and progress is being made for the final roster pieces, be it Rasho Nesterovic or Carlos Delfino or both.

The Raptors are taking shape.

Triano will have a better hand to play than he did last season. The work he's doing this week in Vegas is an argument that he's the right person to play it.

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