Dwane Casey watch is on in Detroit — and in Toronto, for that matter, as Raptors fans wait to see where their longtime coach heads next.
Casey was first reported to be a “primary target” for the Pistons head coaching job late last month, a few weeks after the coach of the year as voted by his peers was fired by the Toronto Raptors after his seventh season at the helm. All signs now point to him and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ime Udoka as the finalists for the position.
He shed a little light on his job search during an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump on Friday.
“I’ve had a couple of great meetings — one with the management, with Ed Stefanski, who was a great GM, great guy, he’s big time. And he’s the main reason why the job is very appealing,” Casey said of his interactions with Pistons brass. “I had a great meeting the other night at [Pistons owner] Tom Gores’ home in L.A. Very dynamic owner, I’m very impressed with him and his leadership, his vision. But again, we’re talking now. Nothing is finalized or done, so it’s still in the talking phase.”
Casey’s relationship with Stefanski, who most recently served as executive vice-president of the Memphis Grizzlies before joining Detroit as a senior advisor in May, dates back to 2011 when Stefanski and then-Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo hired Casey to coach the Raptors.
“I know they talked to Ime Udoka, who is a very good up-and-coming coach in this league, he’s going to be a head coach very soon,” Casey said. “So it’s ongoing, I had a great conversation with Tom again last night so we’ll see where it goes in the next couple of days.”
Detroit isn’t far off from contention, missing the playoffs by just five games this past season.
“They have a lot of good pieces, Stan Van Gundy did an excellent job of coaching that team,” Casey said. “It’s there … So we’ll see where it goes.”
Casey has ‘no regrets’ about Toronto tenure
Casey was also asked about how he views his time coaching Toronto, almost exactly one month after being fired.
“I have no regrets as far as what we did in seven years there. When I first got to Toronto, we were last in defence, 20-something in offence, we were the laughing stock in the Eastern Conference,” Casey told The Jump. “Getting them to where they are now, I’m very proud of that.”
Casey coached the Raptors to an overall record of 320-238 in seven seasons, guiding them to the post-season in each of the past five years. Despite 2017-18 being the franchise’s best-ever campaign, their season ended in familiar fashion at the hands of Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third straight year.
“I knew where we wanted to go and we fell short of getting to where we wanted to go, which was a championship — and there’s a guy here in Cleveland who had something to do with that,” he said.
Many viewed this is as the year the Raptors might finally get past the King of the Eastern Conference, but a deflating Game 1 loss set the stage for the sweep — perhaps a similar situation to what the Cavaliers are feeling right now in the Finals.
“We win that game, just like Cleveland in Golden State the other night, there’s a big psychological difference in that situation,” Casey said.
So, how do you stop Lebron? While Casey never managed to solve the puzzle that plagued him through three playoff series, he’s had the benefit of hindsight to reflect on why things went wrong this time.
“What would I do differently? One, probably mix up more double-teams on him. Switch, double-team, then get out, mix that up a little bit more defensively. But he’s such a great passer, so you were picking your poison,” said Casey. It didn’t help that the teammates he was passing it to, mainly J.R. Smith and Kevin Love, were shooting extremely well all series.
“I though we were guilty, as I think Cleveland has been the last couple of nights, of unnecessary switches,” he continued. “Part of your philosophy is switching, and it’s hard to turn it on and turn it off and be locked in because if you make a mistake, both these teams will make you pay. I could’ve done a better job — and I would’ve started that more so in the [regular] season — of doing those things to prepare for Lebron and playing that style a little bit more.”