TORONTO - Jay Triano walked to the podium for his regular pre-game chat, not knowing when or if, he will do this again.
He said he didn’t think about the finality of his place behind the microphone. He said it didn’t feel like anything special or emotional. He was probably not telling the truth — most coaches don’t in his situation — but why should he?
It is a complicated matter, really, the end of this convoluted Raptors season. Triano may not be back because it’s likely he’ll be fired as head coach of the Raptors. Someone needs to be scape-goated for this dreadful season and he’s as replaceable a part as anyone. The Raptors season ended Wednesday night with so many unknowns. Will Bryan Colangelo, caught in a contract snafu and a board spat, be back as general manager? And if Colangelo is back, will Triano be the coach? And better yet, should Triano be the coach? And if Colangelo is back — and you make a sound argument he should be shown the door — will he finally find the stones to send his precious Andrea Bargnani packing?
The stories go round and round and the questions remain unanswered on a night the Raptors finished their season playing the Miami Heat, who chose Wednesday to only sit out LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — that’s all: What began this season as a circle-your-calendar game in Toronto, ended up as our eight guys against their eight guys and may the best team go through the motions. It was that kind of terrible year for the Raps. Even the opponents that mattered most often played the part of no show.
And still, it is difficult to know after almost three seasons exactly what kind of coach Triano has become. Like Ron Wilson, he has missed the playoffs in each of his campaigns. Like Ron Wilson, his teams are statistical inferior. Unlike Ron Wilson, no one is passionately defending Triano and calling out anyone who dares to have an opposing view. There are all kinds of adamant views on whether Wilson should be gone or retained as Leafs coach just nothing similar for Triano. The Raptors don’t normally evoke that kind of passion.
And now, the thing is with this Raptors team, just about everything is in play. The general manager. The coach. Next season. Season tickets. And a good portion of the roster. The hope may come from winning the draft lottery, which considering the Raptors history is unlikely to happen. You draft first, you could get something special. You draft third, you just don’t know.
The off-season could end up more eventful than the past 82 games.
But there was some good news this year. With management in limbo and fans wavering there has to be some pleasure with the nice development of their last two first-round picks, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis. Triano was quick to point out that DeRozan exceeded his expectations for a team of minimal wins. He was a part time player as a rookie, a kid who couldn’t shoot straight, an athlete learning to be a basketball player. By the end of the season, he smiled, and tried to be humble about all that has happened to him these past six months. He took several giant steps forward and in truth, didn’t want this very long season to come to an end.
“It has been tough,” DeRozan said of all the losing. “It’s something we’ve had to overcome. But you have to go through this to be successful.” A season of team defeats and personal victories. And what he did he learn from his second year?
“I can be one of the top players in the league and a leader for this team and someone who can take us where we need to go. I need to work on everything, polishing up my shooting, my defence, getting stronger.”
The growth in maturity is evident also. That has to mean something in a season of so little meaning. One thing not to wonder about not knowing when the next season will come.