Sam Mitchell insists that has no regrets looking back at his first year as a head coach in the NBA. No regrets, that is, other than all the many close losses his team has suffered this season.
The Raptors have lost 11 games by four points or less, including two by one point, four by two points and three by three points.
As well, Toronto has gone 0-4 in overtime games.
Mitchell has also been forced to deal with a player who threatened to quit the team (Rafer Alston), a player who doesn't want to be in a Raptors uniform (Eric Williams) and a superstar who didn't want to play hard every night (Vince Carter).
"It has been tough," the coach said, prior to last night's game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. "But like my good friend/cousin Marc (Upshaw) told me about two months ago, he said, 'Let me tell you something. This is the best thing that could have happened to you. You've been through everything this year that normally takes five years for a coach to go through.' "
Mitchell said he has no regrets and holds no grudges, not even against Carter.
"When you're coaching men in tough situations or in high stress situations, there are going to be some meltdowns," he said.
"But the players have to understand that you're going to stand your ground for what you believe."
Though he hasn't yet written the playoffs off, even the Raptors are well behind the eight-ball in terms of qualifying for the post-season, Mitchell already is looking forward to next season.
"We're not that far away," he said. "We have a guy like a Chris Bosh that you can build around, a 21-year-old guy in his second year in the NBA, almost averaging a double-double. And we have other people. I think Matt Bonner is only going to get better. I talked to all the young guys and they all want to be a part of what we want to do (in the future). And as the young guys get better and start nipping at your heels, guess what happens with the veteran guys?
"They pick their game up.
"During the tough days you have a choice, either you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can choose to learn from it. And I choose to learn," Mitchell said.
"There hasn't been a day that I've regretted being a head coach."