Dwane Casey tips his hat to LeBron James led Cleveland teams
Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey spent seven seasons coaching the Toronto Raptors, bringing them from a basement team with a 23-43 record in 2011-12 to an Eastern Conference powerhouse with a 59-23 record in 2017-18. In his last five seasons with the team, they had a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs every year, including the top seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs last year.
Speaking to The Star‘s Dave Feschuk, Casey would comment on Toronto’s growth in his time with the franchise:
“You tip your hat to those (James-led) teams,” Casey said. “The one thing I can do: I can hold my head high with what we put together. What the players put together, what the organization put together, what the ownership put together — it’s left in a good place. Whoever takes the credit for it, I don’t care. But it’s a culmination of a lot of years put together.”
Looking at Toronto’s evolution, it’s hard to see why the Raptors chose to fire Casey, the 2018 Coach of the Year award winner. That is, until you look at how those Toronto teams were defeated by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in their last three postseason appearances and dismantled by James’ Cavaliers in the last two.
Getting swept in a series once is bad enough. Twice is worse.
But when it seems as if the team has no belief they can get over the hump and defeat James, it becomes hard to continue pushing forward with the same culture.
Right or wrong, Casey was the first casualty of the Raptors culture change.
In many ways, with James being the first player in 50 years to have eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances, the Raptors’ inability to dethrone him seems like an inevitability. A consequence of going up against an all-time great player.
Their thrashings at the hands of James just never made sense given the talent they amassed over the years.