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On Friday, May 11th, the Toronto Raptors fired their head coach of seven years, Dwane Casey after getting swept in the second round of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The decision came following the announcement that Casey had unofficially won the Coach of the Year award after having turned the Raptors franchise around; from a team that wasn't making the playoffs year after year to winning a franchise record 59 games this season.

My question is why did the Raptors fire Casey after he helped build the franchise to the successful club it is today?

Edit: I know there is a question similar to this one here but I would like to know why specifically Casey got fired, not other coaches of the year.

  • Possible duplicate of NBA Coach of the year getting fired – Nij May 17 '18 at 1:17
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    @Nij This is not a duplicate. This question is asking why this particular coach got fired. The other question asks how many times the Coach of the Year was fired. – Ben Miller May 17 '18 at 2:04
  • @BenMiller that is exactly why I asked this question. I want to look at this one specific firing, not previous ones. – Andrei May 17 '18 at 12:31
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I don't think that it's entirely accurate to say that Casey built the club to the current success that it is, because quite frankly, I don't understand how he's been the coach for as long as he has. Historically, his player rotations have been somewhat strange, as has his justification. And as @jcmcclorey mentioned, he didn't advance in the playoffs. The simple reason is that you have to win in the playoffs, and Casey has a 21-30 record (19-22 as the higher seed) in the playoffs with Toronto. I'll give a possible explanation as to why that is the case.

Specifically, I would refer to the 2015 series against Washington (after which, I think he should have been let go), and then talk about this most recent playoff run. In this article, you can see that Casey was making some very strange comments in light of how he had managed that series and also season. In particular, he calls James Johnson the most talented player on their roster, while only playing him 12 minutes over the entire series, where they struggled defensively (and also offensively). When we look to this past playoffs, we again see some personel decisions that are bizarre, generally as it pertains to Valanciunas. Some of the reason for that is his general tendency to plays the game on the opponent's terms, as opposed to forcing them to play on Toronto's terms. With Valanciunas, it typically leads to benching him, where he provides Toronto with an offensive advantage. Jumping around a bit, we also see this trend last year with respect to Casey's willingness to play Valanciunas vs Ibaka or PJ Tucker. One issue with the team over his tenure (that, to his credit did get fixed this year) was the lack of ball movement in the offense, and this can be seen in the falling assist rate over the course of his time in Toronto prior to this year. This is notable, because assist rates are fairly indicative of playoff success; whereas, Toronto has been very dependent upon free throw shooting over the last few years, which is actually not indicative of playoff success (see here). Now, as I had mentioned, they did fix some of these problems throughout the regular season (also, you'd note that in the last article, they were 30th in DREB% last year, but only 12th this year), but seemed to revert to more of their isolation-focused basketball from years past.

Edit: One other issue with Casey has been his tendency to not hold the star players accountable. This article comes from 2 years ago where they went to the ECF in 2016. The article talks about DeRozan's struggles in the first 2 games of their opening round series against Indiana, where Indiana focused on taking DeRozan out of the offence and forcing the other Raptors to beat them. What's notable is the contrasting suggestions from Casey and Lowry on what DeRozan should do in Game 3. Casey said he should be a facilitator, while Lowry said he should keep shooting. The author also notes the advantage they had with Valanciunas against Ian Manhinmi. Clearly, DeRozan listened to the "the little devil yammering in his other ear", going 7-19 in 36+ minutes in Game 3. Just as importantly, this shows a severe disconnect between the coach and the star players. I do also remember there being some whispers about a locker room schism in the 2014-15 season (the one that ended with the sweep to Washington) where you had a DeRozan-Lowry-Lou Williams faction against a Valanciunas-Amir Johnson-James Johnson group, with the latter being very dissatisfied that the former could do whatever they liked without repercussion, but Valanciunas would constantly be benched. Now, I can't find any sources for this, but I do recall seeing some articles about this in 2015.

  • great, that's what I was thinking myself! if you have any more links to analysis please include them so I can check them out too – Andrei May 18 '18 at 0:27
  • This is mostly a mix of my opinion, and articles that I could find. I don't think it's a leap to say that the issues with Casey are long term, it becomes a matter of finding 3-4 year old articles. The articles I linked were ones that I knew I'd sent to someone else about 2 years ago as to why I thought Casey should've been fired back then. So, I don't have many other resources. There is one more that I'll edit into the comment. – Pistol Pete May 18 '18 at 0:40
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Quite simply, Dwane Casey could not advance past the Cavs in the playoffs. Most franchises get impatient when the next step in the process to achieve a certain goal, in this case, a finals appearance by the Raptors, is not achieved. Casey engineered back-to-back great regular seasons but they got swept by Lebron James and the Cavs in back-to-back years in the Eastern Conference semifinals not to mention also losing to them in the Eastern Conference finals in 2016.

2016 Eastern Conference Finals

2017 Eastern Conference Semis

2018 Eastern Conference Semis

Here's an article from ESPN concerning his firing with comments from the team president.

  • Why then did Dwane win deserve coach of the year? – Andrei May 17 '18 at 23:19
  • @Andrei Coach of the Year voting happens at the end of the regular season, before the playoffs start. Therefore it cannot take into account anything that happens in the playoffs. Since Toronto had the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Casey was a top candidate to win the award. – pacoverflow May 18 '18 at 6:55

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