Raptors’ Dwane Casey rare NBA coach whose job is relatively safe
An NBA coach gets fired and 29 of his brethren exhale and think, “There but for the grace of God and an eight-game losing streak go I.”
Because they all know they are basically hired to be fired, and that nothing lasts forever.
But there are some who might feel just a little bit more comfortable than the others — not entirely fat and happy, because the Grim Reaper can arrive at a moment’s notice — because they know there are people with bigger titles and more responsibility who are willing to give them a break every now and then and support.
Always support. Like Raptors coach Dwane Casey.
When the Memphis Grizzlies fired David Fizdale on Monday, it sent shockwaves around the league. A good, young head coach — with a team rife with injuries and missing three key players that set it on an unconventional rebuilding plan — getting let go less than a quarter into the season has a way of catching the attention of confreres like few other things.
Casey, however, has the continued support of ownership and upper management, and that’s at least a bit comforting.
“You have ownership; you have Masai (Ujiri, the team president; you have Bobby (Webster, the general manager); you had Jeff (Weltman, Webster’s predecessor) here for a long time ago. (They’re in) your corner,” Casey said.
“If there’s anything to do with holding players accountable, they have your back. That’s the most important thing we’ve had, a consistent culture. That’s culture.
“Everybody talks about offence being culture, defence being culture. That’s not culture. Culture is the organization from top to bottom being on the same page, holding players accountable if they’re late, if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do within the organization. That’s culture.”
That Casey has had the support of his bosses is undeniable.
Ujiri could have let him go when he arrived back from Denver as the president in 2013 but didn’t. He could have let Casey go in 2016 when the coach’s contract was running out but instead gave him a three-year, $18 million (U.S.) contract as a sign of his commitment and his support.
It’s not something that happens every day in the NBA — new bosses generally like to bring in their own people — and through various iterations of the roster, Ujiri’s had Casey’s back.
But it is not the norm.
Fizdale, thought to be one of the bright head coaching minds in the NBA when he left a job as an assistant in Miami to take the Memphis job, didn’t get a chance to last throughout his first head coaching contract.
He helped get Memphis to the playoffs, watched management let Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Vince Carter go in the summer, had a team missing injured point guard Mike Conley for most of this season and one treading water in the West this season. The Grizzlies are losing — eight straight right now — and when Fizdale had the temerity to bench all-star centre Marc Gasol on Sunday it seems to have been the final indignity.
It was not well received around the league.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr, LeBron James, who was a discipline of Fizdale’s in Miami spoke out about it, as did former Heat guard Dwayne Wade and ex-Grizzlies forward Carter.
Fizdale’s old boss was the most perplexed.
“You think, as a young assistant going over there, moving cities to a new organization that’s transitioning, you think it would be about the long game, and to have patience, and to be able to work through that transition, to be able to create something new,” Erik Spoelstra told reporters in Miami.
“And that takes time in this league. And that’s what was so disheartening about it.”
Disheartening. But not too surprising.
“We understand from general managers, presidents, it’s not forever,” Casey said. “There are very few jobs in this league that are forever. What you can do (is) . . . do the best job you can do.”