Canadian content

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Jay Triano is approaching today like any other day on the NBA calendar.

As one of Sam Mitchell's coaching lieutenants, Triano will be among the first to arrive at the Air Canada Centre this morning in preparation for tonight's tilt against Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets.

For Triano, it'll be business as usual, but with an interesting twist.

With Mitchell forced to deal with real life in Georgia following the death of his father-in-law, Triano will serve in Mitchell's absence, a Canadian in charge -- albeit for one night -- of Canada's only NBA franchise.

Many will view tonight as some sort of watershed moment in the hoops history of this country, but typical of Triano is how he refuses to get caught up in any hoopla, real or perceived.

"I don't think a whole lot of people know,'' he began yesterday as a cadre of microphones and lights greeted Triano following the team's practice. "I don't think a whole lot of people think it's that big a deal.

"To be honest, it's one game in our season. This is Sam's team. The philosophy we're going in with is the same one he has."

As the basketball fates would have it, the Nets are Triano's scout team, just like the San Antonio Spurs were the scout team assigned to fellow assistant Mike Evans, who served in Mitchell's absence in Monday's 93-88 loss.

"It just so happens that it's my turn in the rotation,'' Triano said. "There's nothing different. I'm not changing in terms of preparation or personality.

"As an assistant, you wake up and go to bed each night thinking about how to win basketball games. It's pretty pure and simple."

More than anything, tonight represents validation for Triano in the NBA.

Years ago when the almost daily watch hovered over the head of Lenny Wilkens, Triano's name made its way to the team's board of directors as a possible successor.

During his time with Mitchell, Triano has become a trusted confidant, one who has the head honcho's ear.

"In my mind, I've coached every game,'' Triano said.

Admittedly excited at the opportunity, Triano can look at his resume and take pride in the path he taken to arrive at this moment.

One of the best players to ever represent Canada on the international stage, Triano served as our nation's national coach. He worked for the Grizzlies and saw the franchise move from Vancouver to Memphis.

This past summer, Triano was asked to coach a U.S. select team, which competed against the latest incarnation of the Dream Team.

Now in his sixth season in Toronto, the words of former coach and mentor Jack Donohue resonate with Triano.

"He inspired me to be a coach,'' Triano said. "Coach always said to have fun and that's exactly what I plan on doing (tonight)."

Evans knows Triano will bring his best, just like he always does in his full-time role as assistant.

"We're a team also as coaches,'' Evans said. "Jay is not the Lone Ranger doing this by himself."


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