Coach could be losing it

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Amid the chaos that surrounds the Raptors are fresh reports that first-year head coach Sam Mitchell has lost, or is losing, control inside the increasingly volatile locker-room.

According to NBA sources, the blowup Mitchell had with starting point guard Rafer Alston in Cleveland on Tuesday was the last straw for many of the players, who are beginning to turn a deaf ear to his confrontational style of coaching.

"It has really (become) out of control," one player agent told ESPN. "I think the players are losing respect for him and the way he has handled things with Rafer. If he's not careful, he's going to lose the team."

According a pair of Raptors player agents, Mitchell challenged Alston to a fight during the second half of the game against the Cavaliers. Alston left the game and was escorted to the team bus. Prior to Wednesday's game at the Air Canada Centre against Milwaukee, Alston insisted that he did nothing wrong in Cleveland and expected an apology from someone in the organization, refusing to name Mitchell specifically. When asked about the situation last night, GM Rob Babcock denied that Mitchell has lost the players.

"I don't think he's losing control," Babcock said. "He's a rookie head coach who is certainly going through a learning curve. And he's learning."

Babcock said that problems inside the Raptors locker-room have been blown out of proportion and that the Alston-Mitchell situation is being worked out.

"We knew coming in that we had issues with this team," the GM said. "We've been addressing them all year long and working on them. One issue is Sam and Rafer butting heads. Am I concerned about that? Absolutely. The head coach and the starting point guard are two pretty crucial positions.

"Will Rafer and Sam have more run-ins down the road? Most likely. You don't clear up those kinds of issues overnight," Babcock said. "But I'm encouraged that both have recognized that they have issues to work on between themselves and both are motivated to work on that."

Babcock added that the Raptors probably have more unhappy players compared to other NBA teams because of the parity on the bench.

"There are guys sitting on the bench who are good players who have contributed to winning teams. And when you have that, you have more unhappy players. And when you're losing, everybody is unhappy," he said. "It makes it all look like a whole dysfunctional bunch, but that's not the case. We have issues, but we're making strides."

The Raptors will play host the Philadelphia 76ers, who sit 3 1/2 games ahead in the Atlantic Division, tonight.


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