Casey proud of influence on Raptors, Canadian basketball
Former coach says 7 year Toronto tenure filled with 'blood, sweat, tears'
Dwane Casey might be gone, but he certainly is not forgotten.
The capacity Scotiabank Arena welcomed the 61-year-old Detroit Pistons coach back to Toronto with a long and loud standing ovation while a video tribute played during Wednesday's game.
The game between the Raptors and Pistons was Casey's first time back on the basketball court where he'd left so much "blood, sweat and tears," he said, over his seven-year tenure in Toronto.
Watch highlights of the Pistons' buzzer beating rally
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry made a beeline for Casey just before tipoff, and wrapped the coach in a huge hug. During the video tribute, Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Pascal Siakam stood together at halfcourt applauding their former coach.
Blake Griffin made sure that his coach felt the love.
"He was drawing up a play. They finished the video — and I was watching the video — and they were clapping. He was about to go over it again and I was like 'Coach stand up'. He deserved that, that was a special moment."
Seven years. Many memories.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeTheNorth</a> <a href="https://t.co/j39PhbDspM">pic.twitter.com/j39PhbDspM</a>—@Raptors
The celebration continued for Casey as the Pistons rallied from a 19-point deficit to edge the Raptors 106-104 on Reggie Bullock's buzzer-beater.
"I felt good. I felt good for the players," said Casey. "We were 19 down and didn't give up, didn't stop scrapping, didn't give in. That's who we are each and every night, we've been working on that and tonight we were successful with it against a very good team."
Casey's tenure in Toronto ended with a franchise-record 59-win regular season and an NBA coach of the year trophy, but also a third consecutive playoff loss to Cleveland, which ultimately cost him his job.
No hard feelings
He told a huge gathering of media at Wednesday morning's shoot around there were no hard feelings toward Toronto and the organization, and said he's proud of what he accomplished with what's now the league's hottest team.
"I left here with my head high and did what I was asked to do, to take this program . . . I know revisionist history and everyone wants to take credit for the wins, and the losses is an orphan," said Casey, who addressed every reporter with a handshake. "I'll take all the losses but I know what we started with, how it was built, what was built and how it got there. I take total pride in that."
Casey, who led the Raptors to a 320-238 record and five consecutive post-season appearances, said he'd been prepared for either cheers or boos from the Toronto crowd.
"I've been in this league long enough," he said. "I went back to Minnesota after getting fired there. I'm a big boy. I feel good knowing I left something here in Canada that was positive and good, and it wasn't negative and bad. . . I have no ill will for anybody. I understand what happened, how it happened. I don't know why it happened. [But] I understand it."
Those in Canadian basketball will tell you Casey's influence on the sport here is felt beyond the Raptors, a fact he also takes pride in.
"I thank God every day I was able to come here and to give something to basketball as Vince Carter did, as a lot of great players before me came in here and did," he said. "I tried to help a lot of coaches across the country and in the city.
"It's big, basketball in Canada is at an all-time high. Some of the top players in this country and this city are being highly recruited and hopefully [I] had something to do with that and leave that little mark behind."
Casey often talked about how much he enjoyed living in Canada, and he had kind words Wednesday for the country he and wife Brenda and their two kids had embraced.
"Tim Hortons. My son loves Timbits and thank God they have Timbits and Tim Hortons in Detroit because he wouldn't be able to survive," he joked.
He added on a serious note: "Just treating people right, doing right by people, being nice to people, being honest with people. All those things are positive Canadian norms and values that I hope my kids picked up and it rubbed off on me, too."