Vote of confidence for Sam

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Sam Mitchell may be billed as a "lame duck" coach next season, but he does not appear to be in danger of being shipped to the unemployment line anytime soon.

In an interview yesterday, new Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo was quick to praise Mitchell, who heads into the final year of his three-year contract next season. While he did not hint at an extension, neither did Colangelo show any signs of wanting to make a coaching change.

"It (lame duck status) is constantly talked about in our industry," Colangelo, who was hired Feb. 28, said before watching his new team play on the road for the first time last night against the New York Knicks.

"It's not specific to Sam Mitchell or anyone else. Last time I checked, we're still in this season and he's got another year to go and he's our coach ... He's doing a hell of a job."

Needless to say, Mitchell was happy to hear the kind words.

"You want him to feel like you are doing a good job," Mitchell said. "You want him to feel you are a person confident enough to lead this team in the direction in the team he thinks it should go. Our whole thing is we continue to try to get better every night."

Like everybody who has been keeping tabs on the team, Colangelo has noticed a marked improvement recently, with the team winning three of its past four games against playoff teams. He gave Mitchell his fair share of credit for the success.

"It's a team that hasn't stopped playing, they continue to fight in games, they continue to do the things that impress you as a talent and basketball evaluator," Colangelo said.

"Sam and the staff are getting the guys prepared for games and they're going out and being competitive every night. What I've seen in the last week or so is they've turned the corner maybe on being able to pull those games out. The tight games which were slipping away a couple weeks ago are now perhaps in our reach and they won some games that otherwise would have been losses.

"I think that's a very positive sign of growth. That's a sign of growth that's clearly what they accomplished. It has nothing to do with me being here, it has everything to do with what the staff has done and what the young players are doing in the way of improvement."

Mitchell said his relationship with the former Phoenix Suns general manager is a good one.

"From the first day I met Bryan, he has went out of his way to make me feel comfortable," Mitchell said. "He told me at any time to call (Suns coach) Mike D'Antoni so I can get an idea, from a coach's perspective, of his management style. I've never felt the need to do that. But we see a lot of the same things.

"To say we're going to agree about everything, no it's not about agreeing on everything. We sit down and talk and at the end of the day, we talk about what's the best thing for the Toronto Raptors and at the end of the day, he's got to make the final decision and we go from there."


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