In Part 1 of this In Focus, we looked at Dwane Casey’s biography. Today we’re going to grade his results as Toronto Raptors coach against some objective criteria, and conclude with our thoughts about whether he will keep his job.
What characterizes a successful coach? We’ll start with the general, and move to the particular. I’ve decided there are tangible and intangible factors at play. What I’m calling “tangible” are:
- use of timeouts, and play-calling out of them
- substitution patterns
- ability to adjust to untoward circumstances (foul trouble early, an in-game injury to a starter, etc.)
- winning the close ones more often than not
“Intangible” factors are:
- personal integrity
- player improvement (will they play for him or not?)
- dealing with discipline issues
- media & public relations
- maximizing the available talent
Both lists could stretch much longer, but let’s run with what we have.
Game-planning: I’m particularly concerned with how well the Raps play in the game’s first 5 minutes or so. Are the opponents tearing through our defense? Conversely, are we scoring a lot or a little? Are we taking good shots in rhythm, or tossing up off-balance no-chance jumpers as the shot clock buzzer sounds? The Raps seldom appeared to be getting run out of the gym. Grade: B+ [20-second timeout: The topic of coaching, and how to assess its effectiveness, could easily take 5 posts by itself. If there's interest from readers, I'll turn this matter into an occasional series, and welcome guest posts. Let me know in the Comments how you feel.]
Timeout usage: Does coach Casey call the “right” timeouts, i.e., before the other guys’ run becomes too much to overcome, or when our offense is out of sync? Can he draw up an effective play to score a needed bucket? I think coach’s timeouts are timed well enough, but I’m not impressed with the plays we see following. Jay Triano was brilliant by comparison. Grade: C-
Substitution patterns: Does the bench get sufficient play to both rest the starters and contribute to wins? I don’t like coaches who pull players from the floor after one mistake, particularly if they just got on. Coach Casey is respectable; no Rap plays too many minutes (an invitation to injury or ineffectiveness), and he’s not afraid to use a 9-player rotation. Without Alan Anderson this season, coach’s substitutions will be worth watching. Anderson was a Swiss Army knife at wing or guard – can Terrence Ross step up? Grade: C+
Adjusting to adversity: This is a tough one to grade, given the weakness of the Raps’ roster over Casey’s tenure. For instance, Andrea Bargnani’s bellyflop last season was hugely damaging, as were Landy Fields’ and Kyle Lowry’s injuries. Slotting in Ed Davis and Jose Calderon turned out extremely well, and coach gets high marks for making that significant lineup shuffle work. Another point in coach’s favour – very few Raps fouled out last season. Grade: C
Winning close games: There’s no way to sugarcoat this result. The Raps lost a ton of games in which they led going into the fourth quarter, and were 2-7 in overtime. Grade: F
Personal integrity: Does the coach bash his players publicly? Do traded players dump on the coach after they’re gone? I don’t have much regard for coaches (like hockey’s John Tortorella) who hog the spotlight, rant at refs, or curse out the press. I’ve heard nothing from or about Dwane Casey which worries me. Grade: A
Player improvement: This is another huge topic. Perhaps the only positive thing Lenny Wilkens did during his
extended vacation coaching sojourn in Toronto was promote Alvin Williams to the role of starting point guard. Coach Casey has already proposed something analogous by asking Quincy Acy to play small forward this season. To me, the play of the talented Kyle Lowry will be the litmus test for coach this season. Lowry has driven his coaches up a wall with his petulance and stubbornness – can he play with consistency, finally? Jonas Valanciunas made huge strides last season under coach’s tutelage, and we’d love to see Terrence Ross do the same this year. Grade: Incomplete
Dealing with discipline issues: Fortunately, we haven’t had many of these. James Johnson, whose story hasn’t been told to my ears yet, was the worst. He was benched, then dumped. Grade: B+
Media & public relations: If coach Casey has any problems here, I’ve missed them. Grade: A
Maximizing the available talent: Las Vegas bookmakers consider the NBA the most “formful” of the four major North American sports, meaning that there are the fewest upsets. The Raps have not had the talent to compete during Casey’s first two seasons, and got slapped around as a result. We now look like a team with a stable roster, assuming we can avoid the injuries which so damaged us last season. At the risk of being labelled a cop-out…Grade: Incomplete
I’m going to mark Dwane Casey as a B- so far in his 2-year tenure as Raps coach. He scores highly in the intangibles, but I’d rank him barely average as an Xs & Os man.
Thanks for your patience – we’re almost done. The Raps haven’t competed in the playoffs for 5 seasons, which is an eternity in sports. Many pundits believe this season will be another disappointment (Chris Sheridan has the Raps ranked #27). However, for Dwane Casey, the future is now. Anything less than a playoff berth will be judged a failed season by GM Masai Ujiri; indeed, a poor start for the team may spell an early demise for the coach.
I believe Dwane Casey is a man of quality. Whether that will be sufficient for him to retain his job remains to be seen, but I’m pulling for him, and I think his players are too.
Your turn, Rapture Nation. What do you think of Dwane Casey?
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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