Raptors name Casey new head coach
Former Mavs' assistant wants to give Toronto 'defensive identity'
Dwane Casey may not know hockey, but the Toronto Raptors' new head coach wants to bring some of the sport's hard-nosed character to the struggling NBA team.
The Raptors introduced the former Dallas assistant as their new coach Tuesday, nine days after he helped the Mavericks win the NBA title with stifling defence.
Casey partially credits the Mavericks' performance against LeBron James and the Miami Heat to the breaking down of hockey video.
"We felt like we were playing too soft against Miami to start the series and it really set the tone [defensively]," Casey said after being introduced to the media at Air Canada Centre.
"I don't know a lot about hockey. I know I'll learn about it. But we spliced in [footage of] those guys checking players up into the window [glass], into the boards and that type of thing and that's the way we want to play.
"We want to make sure people feel us when they cut through the lane. And that's a mindset, and that's having a disposition — a bad disposition — when people come through your paint."
The Raptors could use a shot in the arm defensively.
Casey takes over a squad that ranked among the worst at that end of the floor in 2010-11, finishing a dismal 22-60.
The 54-year-old native of Morganfield, Ky., made it clear his No. 1 goal is to give the Raptors a "defensive identity."
"Defensively I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak," said Casey, the eighth coach in Raptors history. "Offensively I'm going to trust and give them freedom."
Casey takes over from Canadian Jay Triano, who was shuffled into the front office earlier this month. Triano stood quietly at the back of the news conference announcing Casey's hire.
"I intend to use Jay as a resource," Casey said, adding the former coach laid a solid groundwork at the offensive end of the floor.
In making the announcement, general manager Bryan Colangelo said the move made sense for both Casey and the Raptors.
"This is the right fit for Dwane Casey and it's the right fit for the Toronto Raptors' organization," Colangelo said, adding Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle called him just hours after winning the title to see what it would take for Casey to get the job in Toronto.
"[Casey] comes with exceptional support from [basketball] people in very high places … There's a lot of people that are rooting for Dwane to do well here. They think it's the right time."
Casey, who compiled a 43-59 record as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from June 2005 to January 2007, reportedly beat out former New Jersey head coach and current Boston assistant Lawrence Frank for the job in Toronto.
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan was on hand Tuesday and said he and his teammates welcome the new commitment to defence.
"I think everybody's definitely going to buy into it because we've got a young team and we could cause a lot of havoc on the defensive end," DeRozan said. "I want to improve as a person and as a team player.
Casey, whose new team has the fifth overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft, said he inherits a core of excellent young talent including DeRozan, centre Andrea Bargnani, forward Amir Johnson and guard Jerryd Bayless.
"Defensively I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak," he said. "Offensively I'm going to trust and give them freedom."
He promised a free-flowing playoff-style of basketball on attack.
"The last time I checked the reason why you win games is scoring, so we're going to put a high premium on that too," he said. "We want to keep the pace up tempo with our young team because we have the athleticism."
Casey, who was also an assistant for 11 season in Seattle, won't have much input on who the Raptors take in the draft.
"I've learned over the years to step back from the draft because you have to hire trusted people with your scouting department and trust their knowledge," Casey said. "You can give them your input into what you need and what you want, but the bottom line has to come from the scouting department."