Casey to Raptors getting close

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:03 PM ET

TORONTO - All signs point to Dwane Casey becoming the next head coach of the Raptors.

Casey, who lost out for the coaching job in Houston and Golden State is the team’s top choice and has already interviewed for general manager Bryan Colangelo and the club twice – once during the NBA finals and again on Tuesday.

Casey, the Dallas Mavericks’ defensive guru has not yet even interviewed for the Detroit Pistons – who also like him but see him as just one of the top candidates, along with favourites Mike Woodson, Kelvin Sampson and Lawrence Frank.

He is slated to interview in Detroit next week, but that isn’t even a certainty since the word out of Detroit is Frank, the other finalist in Toronto, "blew the Pistons away" in his interview on Wednesday.

Sampson met with Joe Dumars and his staff on Thursday and the club knows its former assistant, Woodson very well.

Frank was the early favourite in Toronto and has now become the late-charging darkhorse in Detroit.

The Raptors would prefer to announce Casey’s hiring prior to next Thursday’s draft, but that might not be possible if the Pistons insist on interviewing him.

Casey, 54, has come close to becoming a head coach again after going 53-69 with Minnesota before being fired in 2006-07 despite leading the team to a 20-20 mark.

He also spent 11 years with the Seattle Sonics, the last four as Nate McMillan’s associate head coach when the team went 174-134.

As an assistant coach in the NBA, Casey has also compiled a 46-32 mark in the playoffs including a trip to the NBA finals with Seattle in 1995-96 and the championship with Dallas this season.

According to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, the Mavericks are resigned to losing Casey, an assistant to Rick Carlisle the past three years.

Soon after Dallas beat Miami, Sefko said Carlisle told him he was: “Probably going to lose Dwane to Toronto.”

Despite changes at the top from Glen Grunwald to Rob Babcock to Colangelo, ironically, if Casey is hired, he would become the third candidate interviewed for the job back in 2003 to eventually become Raptors head coach.

Lenny Wilkens was supplanted by then Detroit assistant Kevin O’Neill.

Casey was a finalist and Sam Mitchell, a Minnesota assistant at the time, also made a positive impression and later replaced O’Neill.

Aided by the arrival of Tyson Chandler this season and by Carlisle, no slouch in the defensive side of the game himself, Casey helped turn around the Mavericks’ defence.

Casey’s zone helped topple the Heat and thoroughly discombobulated LeBron James.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant also had their issues in the playoffs with Dallas.

The Raptors, dead-last in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) the past two seasons under Jay Triano would benefit from employing a zone more often, since most of the players on the roster are incapable of staying in front of opponents in a man-to-man defensive format.

However, the Raptor most maligned for his defensive shortcomings, Andrea Bargnani, is actually a half-decent man defender but has shown no ability to rotate effectively – a key part of any zone – meaning the Casey-Bargnani dynamic would be quite interesting, to say the least.

Soon, it could become a reality.


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