B.C. familiar to Raptors' Triano

(QMI Agency files)

(QMI Agency files)

FRANK ZICARELLI, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

VANCOUVER —  - If this were a different time under different circumstances with not as much at stake, Jay Triano would have had no problems reminiscing and regaling.

As soon as the media was allowed access to Raptors practice Saturday here at the University of British Columbia’s War Memorial Gym, Triano became the centre of attention, the local hero who lit up the hardwood when he played at nearby Simon Fraser University.

“I just remember how exciting a place this was when we would come to play here,’’ Triano would begin as the Raptors began the Vancouver portion of their training camp. “It was a big rivalry game when SFU played UBC. It was for city bragging rights.”

For a brief moment, Triano relived some collegiate moments, lamented on the departure of the Grizzlies and believed the city’s hoops purists continue to support Canada’s lone NBA franchise.

But there can be no mistake about Triano’s focus and attention as he begins his second full season as head coach of a Raptors team that is as much a collection of unknowns and uncertainties.

Triano has a lot to prove when many have already written off the Raptors, even though not a single game has been played.

Vancouver is now Triano’s home, but it’s his place on the game’s biggest stage that must be cemented and legitimized.

The feel-good story of returning to a former haunt is nice for a day, at best, and this notion of a Canadian coaching a Canadian-based team no longer has any meaning, if it ever did.

It’s now incumbent on Triano to produce, not necessarily wins because the Raptors will be hardpressed to match last year’s 40-win total, which wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs.

There are no guarantees Triano will be asked to return in his current next year, no assurances that he’ll even survive this season if the team takes a dramatic turn for the worse.

There are no expectations surrounding these Raptors as there were the past two season when Chris Bosh was the face of the franchise, when players such Jermaine O’Neal and Hedo Turkoglu were acquired at considerable price to take the team to a higher level.

Triano’s task is to help nurture the team’s young core, create a culture that demands more accountability and somehow instill more mental toughness.

Perhaps now, in these times when so little is being predicted for the Raptors, can Triano finally begin to show that he is a legitimate NBA coach and not some token choice by a franchise that fancies itself as Canada’s team.

No player is assured of anything, whether it’s minutes, touches or starts.

At no time during his brief run as head coach has Triano been given such a clean slate to establish his principles and mentality.

In the past, there was always some agenda at play that worked against Triano.

Mind you, there always remains the possibility of GM Bryan Colangelo making yet another move to upgrade the roster, but the stage has been set for Triano to leave his mark.

How he handles the upcoming season will determine how many additional seasons Triano will oversee the team as its head coach.

Triano was swarmed on Saturday in a session that was more about nostalgia than any on-court strategy or development.

He’s under the spotlight, but it has nothing to do with his days at SFU or his past connection with the Vancouver Grizzlies or whether this market is NBA-worthy.

This is Triano’s time and regardless of the losses that are sure to be produced, he and his staff have to show Colangelo that progress is being made, that players such as DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson make inroads, that the team develops more of a defensive edge, that capitulation doesn’t even become an option.

Triano is more than capable.

Oddly, so much can be gained when so little is being expected.


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