Silence speaks volumes from Raptors

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

You would think a division title, the first in Raptors history, would be cause for celebration.

You would think after starting the season 2-8 the Raptors would at the very least raise a toast to mark the occasion.

You would think ... but you would be wrong.

During their return flight from Philadelphia, the pilot said the Chicago Bulls had beat the New Jersey Nets, thereby clinching the Atlantic Division for the Raptors.

No champagne corks popped, not even an audible clinking of beer cans.

"You know what. It was just a normal plane ride home," Sam Mitchell said.

"They didn't say a word. I went around and shook all the players hands but we still have a lot we want to accomplish.

"They line 'em up like ducks in a row. Make the playoffs was the first goal obviously. Second was to win the division and next is to secure home court. So we still a lot of work to do."

The only sign the Raptors' situation had changed was a Division Champions T-shirt Juan Dixon had on at the end of practice.

Unlike the majority of his roster, Mitchell went through two very difficult years before the success he has enjoyed with this year's club.

So this might mean more to him than some others.

Helping Mitchell through some of those tougher times was Wayne Embry, a senior advisor with the Raptors who also served as interim general manager between the Rob Babcock and Bryan Colangelo eras.

Embry left Mitchell a message Friday night after the Raptors clinched.

Yesterday, Mitchell sent a much more public one back.

"I love Wayne," Mitchell said. "Wayne has been like a father to me. Wayne would pat me on the back when nobody else would. Wayne would call me after games and say 'Win or lose, you did a good job out there.'

"But he would also kick me in the seat of the pants when he thought I wasn't doing what I was supposed to do."

There were 104 losses in Mitchell's first two seasons, which leads to a lot of frustration for a head coach.

Embry was normally one of the first to hear it and helped guide Mitchell.

"Without the grace of God and Wayne Embry I wouldn't be here today," Mitchell said. "I really feel that way because when times were tough I could just call him.

"I would be all mad or whatever and he would calm me down and talk to me and walk me through the process.

"I could never, ever repay him."


Videos

Photos