Award a team thing: Sam

MIKE GANTER

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

For a guy with a long memory when it comes to his critics, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell did his best to deflect the compliment of being named coach of the month for January.

Mitchell was on the team charter to Atlanta when the league announced the monthly winners Thursday afternoon that also included Chris Bosh as player of the month and Andrea Bargnani as rookie of the month.

Following the morning shootaround yesterday, Mitchell played down the individual nature of the award.

"It means the team is playing well," Mitchell said of the award, the first in his three years in Toronto. "I'm more excited for Chris and Andrea. It shows that we're playing good basketball. Obviously if Chris wouldn't have had his 30 (points) we wouldn't have won games we probably wouldn't got those honours. It's a team thing, it's for all of us."

Mitchell was asked if this was a sign that the organization finally is getting the credit and recognition that has been so slow in coming from the rest of the league.

"I don't think about it in those terms," Mitchell said. "We just try to stay focused on our guys and winning games. That has been our fight since I've been here. We haven't accomplished anything. We've put ourselves in a position to do something but we haven't done it yet. We have a chance to do something and at the end of the day that's all you want. Now, it's what are we going to do with that chance?"

Mitchell always will be a guy more comfortable talking about the criticism levelled at him than any recognition that comes his way. In fact, he suggested the two are very much intertwined.

"As a coach you learn," he said. "You get hit over the head a few times and take the criticism. That's why it's hard to take a compliment. All the things we were doing when we first got here were to get us to this point. And what was I doing that was so bad? Demanding respect. Demanding discipline. Demanding team play. Demanding accountability. Demanding guys conduct themselves like pros on and off the court. So what was I demanding that was so ridiculous?"

Mitchell said he handled the earlier criticism because he knew and believed in his approach. To be swayed from that path would be admitting error or defeat and Mitchell wasn't about to do that.


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