Dwane Casey, the most successful coach in Toronto Raptors history, makes his return to Scotiabank Arena Wednesday night for the first time since he was fired last season shortly before winning coach of the year.
It’s expected to be a lovely evening with tributes and loud cheers for man who was at the helm of Toronto for the past seven seasons.
But on the sidelines it could be a different story, however, as Casey was not only fired after leading the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins last season, he was then replaced by one of his own assistants, Nick Nurse.
So far, with a restructured roster, Nurse looks to have the Raptors playing better than ever with a 12-2 record. Casey’s Detroit Pistons, on the other hand, have made modest strides forward but don’t appear close to the level Toronto is at yet.
The Raptors are coming into Wednesday’s game as 10-point favourites, according to OddsShark, so the odds are against Casey having a storybook revenge ending — as a coach at least.
After morning shootaround Wednesday, Casey spoke with reporters and said that, other than the addition of players via trade, he doesn’t see a lot of changes on how the team is executing on the floor.
“Changes, I don’t know about changes. I’d say additions of Leonard and Danny Green have been great,” Casey told reporters. “[But] you’ve got the additions of Danny and Kawhi Leonard, two starters on a championship team, defenders. Those are the additions more so than changes because I see the same plays that we ran the last four, five years being run. Not a lot of changes from that standpoint.”
Is this bitterness on the part of Casey? Perhaps. But who can say for certain. One thing that is certain, however, is that Casey would love to step on the court himself to take on Nurse and the Raptors staff.
“I wish I could get out there and play their coaching staff,” Casey said. “Even at 60-something years old, I’d take our staff.”
Casey vs. Nurse in a little game of H-O-R-S-E, anyone? Who wouldn’t want to see that?
It seems pretty clear that Wednesday’s game means just a little bit more to Casey than any other random November contest, and it makes sense.