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  Mon, June 28, 2004


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A confident Mitchell just the ticket for Raptors
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

Canadians can only hope the prime minister they elect today has as much self-confidence as Sam Mitchell.

As first reported in The Saturday Sun, the Raptors are going to hire Mitchell as their new head coach. An announcement likely will be made tomorrow, since general manager Rob Babcock won't be back in Toronto till tonight.

It's expected Mitchell will sign a three-year contract (the third year may be a team option) and will earn between $1.5 million and $2 million US annually. That's comparable to the deal Kevin O'Neill got from the Raptors a year ago.

Mitchell, 40, never has been an NBA head coach before. In fact, he has been an assistant coach for only two seasons, following a 13-year playing career. He finished a distant third in the Raptors coaching sweepstakes last spring, behind O'Neill and runner-up Dwane Casey.

But despite a thin resume, Mitchell -- who was set to be the lead assistant coach with the expansion Charlotte Bobcats next season -- took a strikingly bold, calm and measured stance when the Raptors came calling this year.

According to NBA sources, Mitchell never formally interviewed for the Raptors' job this time around.

Basically, Mitchell's way of thinking with regard to the Raptors' interest in him was this: I went through your protracted interview process last year, you know what I'm about, so if you want me, just come and get me. Otherwise, I don't want to go through another dog-and-pony show.

If you'll recall, the Raptors were accused of running a dog-and-pony show during their recent two-month search for a GM. Some of the most obvious candidates expressed horror at the high number of people the Raptors were interviewing, and basically adopted the attitude Mitchell eventually borrowed: Do your homework, and if you want me, you know where I am. But if you just want to have a meet-and-greet, wine-and-cheese party, count me out.

Interestingly, the two other finalists for the Raptors' coaching job this year -- Casey, an associate coach with the Seattle SuperSonics, and Mike Woodson, an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons -- did go through interviews, despite the fact they were candidates last year, too.

Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder. Regardless, Mitchell's "I'm not desperate" veneer revealed a sense of self-worth that he'll need if he's going to make the tough transition from good assistant coach to good head coach.

Mitchell will be the sixth head coach in Raptors history. Besides Lenny Wilkens, the other five have been former NBA assistants working as the top man for the first time.

The Raptors' success rate on this front is abysmal. Brendan Malone lasted one season. Darrell Walker a season and a half. Butch Carter two and a half seasons. And Kevin O'Neill one season.

Can Mitchell snap the streak?

How many of his own assistants Mitchell gets to bring with him remains unclear, although it's a lock one of them will be Jim Todd, who worked alongside Mitchell when both were assistants with the Milwaukee Bucks. Raptors director of player personnel Alex English will have a role to play on the bench, and it isn't known if incumbent assistant Jay Triano will stay in that position or will be re-assigned.

Regardless, assistant coaches can do only so much if the head coach doesn't act like a head coach.

Most people who have worked with Mitchell laud his ability to kick butts and pat backs, at the appropriate junctures. He'll need all his people skills to communicate with a Raptors locker room that is full of sensitive underachievers.

In other words, Sam Mitchell will need a demeanour that is almost, well, prime ministerial.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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