Triano, Raptors ink 3-year head coaching deal

The Raptors signed Jay Triano to a three-year contract on Monday, ending his status as interim head coach.

Jay Triano will be back as head coach of the Toronto Raptors next season.

The Canadian signed a three-year deal with the Raptors on Monday, putting an end to his status as interim head coach.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, as per team policy.

A native of Niagara Falls, Ont., Triano has been leading the Raptors since Sam Mitchell was dismissed on Dec. 3 and he was promoted from his role as assistant. Triano was assistant coach with Toronto for seven seasons, from 2002 to 2008.

"We have gone through an extensive evaluation process and have done a lot of soul-searching internally and came to the conclusion that Jay Triano was the right leader for this team as we move forward," general manager Bryan Colangelo said at a news conference.

Triano, 50, finished the season with a 25-40 record. He led the Raptors to a 9-4 record in their last 13 games, though Toronto didn't come close to making the playoffs. The Raptors finished the season 13th in the Eastern Conference.

'The players responded'

Triano might not have turned things around dramatically, but Colangelo said he knew he was right for the job because he earned the respect of his players.

"The players responded," said Colangelo. "It didn't necessarily pan out in the form of wins all the time, but it did pan out in the form of respect from the players.

"That ability and that premise is one of the primary things that you hope to see when a coach takes the reins."

He added that any problems with the roster are on his shoulders, not Triano's.

"Any deficiencies in the roster I've already talked about, that falls on me," said Colangelo. "Make no mistake about it, there's no deficiencies here with Jay as the head coach of this basketball team."

The GM added he'll be spending a lot of time with Triano discussing the roster, and that the head coach will have major input as to the direction the team takes.

Defence and toughness need work

The seventh coach in Raptors history, Triano says he plans to get right to work.

"Today, it's a great honour for me to be really rewarded by an organization that I've been devoted to for the past seven years," he said. "I've spent an awful lot of time late at night here at the arena preparing for games. I'm just anxious and excited."

Defence is something Triano says the team needs to improve on for next season if it wants to crack the playoffs.

"Last year, we were not real strong defensively," he said. "I know that's the part we have to get a whole lot better at if we're going to be playing at this time of year."

Part of what needs to improve is team toughness, Triano says.

"Even now, as we educate ourselves during the playoffs, this is tough basketball," he said. "If you're going to be playing at this time of year, you better be pretty tough. I think it's something as we start in training camp, we build towards, and hopefully, we're playing next year at this time."

NBA's first Canadian coach

First hired into the NBA in 2002 as an assistant to Lenny Wilkens, Triano was the first Canadian-born and -trained coach in the league.

Before he arrived in Toronto, Triano spent 11 seasons playing for Canada, then took over the reins as head coach for six years.

Triano was head coach at the 2000 Olympic Games, where he led team Canada to a record of 5-2 and a seventh-place finish. He also participated in two Olympics as a player.

A graduate of Simon Fraser University, Triano set 11 records at the university between 1977 and 1981, including the career scoring mark of 2,616. The record has since been broken.

Triano was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 but never played a game with the team. He was also drafted by the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.   

With files from The Canadian Press