Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Casey’s dismissal means good is no longer good enough

AP

The regular season is irrelevant.

That is the message the Toronto Raptors sent on Friday, when they fired Dwane Casey two days after his now-former peers in the NBA said he did the best coaching job in the league this season. Casey led the Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season, along with the second-best record in the league. He even got to coach in the All-Star game.

But that did not matter. Swept in the playoffs, swept out of Toronto.

The Raptors were good this season, but not great. They cannot beat LeBron James, who has engineered Toronto’s outster in the past three seasons, the last two of them being sweeps.

So Casey paid the price, and with that comes the reminder: Winning is not enough in this NBA. Coaches must meet expectations, regardless of how misguided they might be.

“In some ways I think the time has come,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said a few hours after telling Casey that he was done in Toronto. “Sometimes these things come to an end, relationships come to an end, and we’ll figure out a way to move on, a new voice, just a new everything in terms of that position.”

That is becoming a mantra around the NBA. Last summer, all 30 coaches kept their jobs. Next season, there will be at least nine coaches in roles they did not have a year earlier.

Lloyd Pierce will be one of them after the Atlanta Hawks on Friday gave him his first head coaching job in the NBA. He replaces Mike Budenholzer, who left last month after the Hawks finished 24-58.

Let us be clear: Casey was flawed in the conference semi-finals, when the Cavaliers won 4-0. There were some peculiar decisions late in Game 1 when Toronto fell in overtime, and no resistance in two games. Casey should have done better, and he should not have offered an end-of-series series assessment that was essentially him saying the rest of the conference is helpless until James is not great anymore.

However, most days this season, he was brilliant. The National Basketball Coaches Association picked him as their coach of the year, in large part because of the way he took an already-good Toronto offense, and made it better. A high-risk move and it paid high dividends.

Whoever gets the gig in Toronto, and any of the other open NBA jobs, will surely understand the new reality. Good is not good enough anymore.

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