Don’t Kid Yourself, Dwane Casey Was Awesome

Every Raptors fan over the past few years have both loved and dreaded Canada’s team. The love comes from winning around 50 games each of the past five seasons and the fear comes from… well, you know. A constant in both the love and fear was the team’s longest tenured head coach, Dwane Casey. 

Over the years, he caught a lot of praise and flak for the results his teams had. People loved the regular season wins but feared the way he coached playoff series and handled guys like Lebron James. The truth is, he was just playing to his team’s strengths and the Raptors weren’t the only team losing to Lebron. Everyone was.

He wasn’t perfect, as his 21-30 playoff record suggests but, he was pretty damn close. Let’s take a look at 5 things that made Dwayne Casey amazing.

1.     Under His Coaching, The Team Became An Eastern Powerhouse

Up until this season, every single one of the Raptors three best teams in franchise history came under the guidance of  Casey. He had brought the team to its first 50 win season in 2015-16 along with their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance and added two more 50+ win seasons to that. When he came into coach after Jay Triano in 2011, the team got considerably better in each of his first five years. They went from a 22 win team in the 2010-11 season to a 48 win team in 2013-14 and a 59 win team in 2017-18. His Raptors teams also made it to the playoffs in five straight seasons; just as many as the franchise had in total before he came in. 

2.     Made Lowry and Derozan Stars

The Raptors traded for a 26 year old Kyle Lowry in 2012 after a solid season in Houston. In his first season, sharing a lot of time with Jose Calderon, Lowry struggled to get into a rhythm averaging just over 11 points per game in under 30 minutes of play. Once Calderon was traded for Rudy Gay, Lowry took off. Since that first season as a Raptor he has averaged more than 17 points per game every season and about seven assists per game while leading the team in win share five of his seven seasons with the team. His play became noticed around the league as he earned his first All-Star selection in the 2014-15 season and has been one every year since. Lowry credits Casey to much of his career success:

Derozan was drafted ninth overall by the Raptors in 2009 and right away looked good. After his first season, everyone knew Derozan was going to be an elite scorer. They thought that’s all he was going to be. Casey turned him into something much more. Not just an elite scorer, but an elite player. When Casey took over, Derozan took the coaching change in stride and was able to improve as a player. When Casey took over the team, Derozan’s scoring and assist numbers went up. He went from under two assists per game in 2010-11 to 4 in 2014-15 and a career high of 5.2 in 2017-18 and his scoring went from just over 17 per game in 2010-11 to a career high 27.3 in 2016-17. Derozan became an All-Star under Casey being selected to the team four times. Derozan also doesn’t shy away from giving credit to his former coach:

3.     Second Raptors Coach To Win COTY

Casey won the coach of the year honour this past season (2017-18) after his Raptors squad went a franchise best 59-23 and finished in first place in the Eastern Conference. He took home the award by getting a total of 292 total points in the voting including 39 first place votes. Sam Mitchell was the other Raptors coach to win coach of the year after his team went 47-35 in 2006-07. Mitchell totaled 389 points with 49 first place votes.

4.     Owns The Franchise Record In Wins

By a lot. Casey owns 320 of the franchises 856 wins (37%). The second in wins is Sam Mitchell with 156. He’s also the only coach (whose coached a full season) to have a win percentage above .500. That’s a lot of winning. 

5.     First Coach In Raptors History To Coach An All-Star Team

In January of 2018, Casey was the head coach for the Eastern All-Stars due to the team’s incredible record pre-all-star break.  He was selected alongside players Derozan and Lowry but was unable to coach them as they were selected by the captain of the West team, Stephen Curry.

Everyone in Toronto had love for him and have acknowledged he was a critical part of the success of the impressive run the Raptors had been on before his firing. 

I miss Casey but I’m happy with how the Raptors team looks now under Nick Nurse. For this one night, I hope the Raptors faithful can come together to cheer on someone who was once one of our own. In fact, I can guarantee a bigger ovation than Vince Carter got in his return.