Some understandable lingering bitterness as Dwane Casey returns to Toronto for Pistons-Raptors game


There is no question, none whatsoever, that Dwane Casey’s role in the Raptors becoming an NBA championship team was vastly important and hugely significant and should never, ever be diminished or forgotten.

It is ridiculous to dismiss the seven seasons he spent here building the culture — and, man, I hate that word but I really can’t come up with a better one — and to do so shows a pettiness and a disrespect that borders on lunacy.

There are no championship rings and no championship banner without Dwane Casey. That’s simple and undeniable and to disagree is to have ignored history.

I remember when he first got here and the team, in many ways, was crap.

The players, most of them, were marginal NBA talents at best the parade of “who’s he?” and “why him?” that ran through the Raptors locker was, at times, comical.

But Casey stayed the course and stayed true to his beliefs and to himself and to doing the job with steadfast resolve no matter how hopeless it might have looked at times.

It was not easy — this was a guy who hadn’t lasted two full seasons in Minnesota as a head coach and no matter how head-scratching the decision was, it was still a thing that hung over him — but he did it.

He did it with the support of Masai Ujiri and team ownership and through some hard times. It would have been very easy for management to wipe the slate clean when Masai came back in 2013 and Toronto still sucked. But they didn’t because Casey is Casey, he had rightfully convinced upper management and ownership that his way was the right way and as well all saw the incremental growth in the team, its consistent success, we know now that Case was right.

DeMar DeRozan became an all-star under his tutelage, he went through wars with Kyle Lowry and look what Lowry is now. Jonas Valanciunas could barely play a lick and that’s not the case now. There are many others who Casey coached and nurtured and dealt with fairly and firmly and honestly and turned into good or great players and good or great men.

Sure, it was a shame he was fired and it was surprising and I remember hearing the news (I was otherwise engaged visiting with friends in a hospital when it happened) and thinking immediately that Masai had done him dirty by doing it when and how he did.

So it’s entirely understandable to me that there is some lingering bitterness today — privately held but I know it exists.

That’s just human nature and it’s just too bad.

I have and will always have the utmost respect for Casey as a man and a coach. He is a genuinely good person and I was so glad good things happened to him through his Toronto tenure.

I have, and will always have, great respect for Ujiri, too. It’s impossible not to given the totality of his life. Sure, he made ruthless basketball decisions on Casey and DeRozan and they were incredibly difficult and incredibly necessary to make.

Nick Nurse? I think he’s caught in the middle and that’s unfair but sometimes life is unfair and you deal with what you have to deal with. Nurse isn’t here without Casey’s support, but Casey benefited from his knowledge at times when they were coach and assistant.

A job came open, Nurse wanted it, he got it. Facts of professional sports life. Everyone’s gotta live with it. Maybe there’s some animosity there, maybe that’s a bit overblown and not necessary but it’s not like those two need to be the dearest of friends and if they’re not, well, they’re not. I’m not sure I care very much.

Now, it’s not like Casey was let go in Toronto and faded into oblivion to lament what could have been and to silently curse those who had perhaps wronged him.


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The five-year contract worth somewhere around $35 million (U.S) he got to coach the Pistons was a pretty nice consolation prize and affords him the time to maybe do in Detroit what he did so well here.

I’m happy for him, you should be happy for him, Masai should be happy for him.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over all these years hanging around this game is that things seldom end well.

There is always — ALWAYS — a level of anger and disappointment and bitterness; there’s usually some private sniping and bit of backstabbing and some revisionist history, too.

But it should never completely alter the reality and the reality in this instance is that Casey was wonderful for Toronto, Toronto was wonderful for Casey, we all wish he could have won a championship here but he didn’t.

And tonight, like fans did last year, hope they say thank you in the same rousing manner.

Okay, that got long-winded, didn’t it?

A quick reminder that we really could use more mail at because it’s getting to be that time of the week.

I don’t know how I’m going to see the end of the TFC game because I’ll probably in the work room polishing up the game report but with Seattle waiting to host the MLS Cup in a couple of weeks, the only right story is a Toronto win tonight and a third and deciding championship game with the Sounders, right?

That’s the only fitting end to this story.

And I’m not really worried about missing the end of the baseball because I figure I can cover a 7:30 p.m. basketball game, write, watch the end of an 8 p.m. soccer game, walk down the street from the arena to have one and putter around on tomorrow work and still see the last four or five innings of the World Series.

Doug Smith