Sam holds his ground

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Sam Mitchell knows that he could be thrown to the wolves at anytime.

But that doesn't mean the Raptors head coach is running scared.

The dismissal of general manager Rob Babcock on Thursday highlighted, yet again, the dysfunctional nature of the Raptors organization and there already is talk that Mitchell could be the next to go.

Though Mitchell was given a vote of confidence (of sorts) from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. president Richard Peddie when Babcock was fired, there are no guarantees that the team's new GM - when he is hired -- would want to keep Mitchell around. In fact, most incoming GMs prefer to have their own man behind the bench.

However, Mitchell insisted yesterday that he is not worried about the volatile nature of the organization, nor his job status at this time. All he can do, Mitchell said, is to continue to coach the 14-30 team to the best of his ability, and let the chips fall where they may.

"I can't worry about that," he said following practice. "I can't. Okay, I go home and I can't sleep at night. What good is that going to do to me? Now I don't have energy to come in here and do my job. All I can do is focus on doing my job to the best of my ability."

It was suggested that one way to cut any imminent dismissal off at the pass is to ask for a contract extension. Mitchell has one year left on his deal after this season and that is generally the time when most coaches ask for an extension, to avoid the dreaded "lame duck" status, when players supposedly lose respect for the head coach when his future with the organization is not secure.

Former Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill harped on that theme the year before his contract expired, and never did get an extension. But Mitchell said that he will not, at this time at least, ask for a new deal.

"I agree with (the lame- duck theory) only to a point," he said. "If the players respect you, they're going to to do what they've always done. They're going to play. It's about being competent, doing your job, respecting the players, and them respecting you."

Mitchell said he hopes that when it's time for a new deal, the organization will judge him on how well the young players developed and how hard his teams played for him. But he understands why organizations are reluctant to hand out extensions.

"Say I pay you $7 million a year, on a five-year deal. Two and a half years into your deal the players walk in and tell the owner, 'We can't play for this guy.' How big is that hammer now? Now it's a toothpick," he said.


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