Message gets through

MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Sam Mitchell can rest ... for a little while.

There was the Raptors head coach, with less than a minute to go and his team up (no, that's not a misprint) by 10 points, actually reposing on the scorer's table with as satisfied an expression on his face as he has worn all season.

It lasted for all of 30 seconds before Mitchell was up again screaming as his young team left Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat wide open for a three-point basket. But nothing was going to spoil the moment for Mitchell.

Not after he has spent the past three weeks losing sleep after every misstep his rookie-laden team has taken.

"I feel good," Mitchell said in a brief moment of self-reflection following a 107-94 win that ended the Raptors' nine-game losing skid.

"But I'm happy for the guys in there," he said, gesturing toward the dressing room. "Being the coach is one thing but when you have to go out in front of 19,000 people and prove yourself every night, the way the season started, that's where the focal point is. I get mine after the game, but during the game, those guys have to go out there and be the focal point and hear the cheers and the boos and I'm proud of them and happy for those guys."

Afterward, in a room full of players who needed this win as badly as the man next to them, Jalen Rose said it was the head coach who deserved and needed it most.

"He has always found positives when there were mostly negatives," Rose said, showing a rare understanding by a player of what a coach goes through in troubled times. "You want to make sure that the things you are stressing to the guys, they are actually (listening) and the best way to understand how to pay heed is to actually win."

In Rose's mind, all the positive reinforcement Mitchell has been stressing now has meaning. The young Raptors can see that it's not all talk. Staying strong and staying together actually counts for something.

Still, without a win those words were in danger of falling on deaf ears. Mitchell's message now has legs.

And maybe now Mitchell can get a good night's rest.

With four games on the West Coast next up, he's going to need one.


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