Two days after his Toronto Raptors were swept from the Eastern Conference semifinals by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and one day after the franchise was reportedly “leaning toward” firing him, Dwane Casey was named Coach of the Year by the National Basketball Coaches Association.
The NBCA confirmed the news soon after New York Times scribe Marc Stein first reported it.
“The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award for the top NBA Coach as voted by his peers is one of the most meaningful in all of pro sports,” Dallas Mavericks coach and NBCA president Rick Carlisle said in a press release. “Dwane Casey once again maximized the Toronto roster to achieve the top record in the Eastern Conference. Congratulations to Dwane on this prestigious recognition.”
What is the NBCA Coach of the Year award?
It isn’t the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by a panel of sportswriters and revealed in June, although Casey is among the favorites for that honor, too. But this award — selected by the league’s 30 head coaches — might be an even better reflection of Casey’s standing within the game.
“The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award is presented each year to the Head Coach who exemplifies the same high level of integrity and excellence that Michael displayed during his highly successful career,” NBCA executive director David S. Fogel said of his predecessor in the release.
Casey is the second recipient of an award that was established last year by the NBCA. Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra shared the inaugural honor.
Why did Casey win?
In his seventh season with the Raptors, Casey led Toronto to a fifth straight playoff appearance and third straight 50-win season. Their 59-win campaign during this regular season was the organization’s highest win total in its 23-year history. Casey earned high marks for reconfiguring his team’s playing style to fit the pace-and-space era and developing one of the deepest rosters in the league this year.
“To be honored by your peers is incredibly gratifying, and I am so thankful to my colleagues across the league for this recognition,” Casey said in the release. “I’m also grateful to the talented and dedicated coaching staff I work with every day in Toronto. To be recognized with an award that bears Michael H. Goldberg’s name is very special.”
If Casey is so great, why might he be fired?
The irony of this news coming after another disappointing playoff exit at the hands of LeBron James is not lost on anyone. Toronto has long been among the East’s elite, reaching the 2016 conference finals.
Since then, they have been ousted in the second round in consecutive seasons, and this year’s sweep after capturing a No. 1 seed felt like the death knell for the Raptors as we know them, with Casey at the helm of a team with All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan manning the backcourt. Outside of blowing up the roster, the best option might be to see if another voice can reach a tuned-out team.
Was anyone else under consideration?
Seven other coaches received votes from the NBCA: D’Antoni, Philadelphia’s Brett Brown, Indiana’s Nate McMillan, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers, Utah’s Quin Snyder and Portland’s Terry Stotts and. That Boston’s Brad Stevens, whose team is on the verge of the conference finals as a No. 2 seed in the East after losing one All-Star five minutes into the season and another with a month to go before the playoffs, didn’t receive a single vote seems like a disservice.
Still, the NBCA voted a deserving regular-season winner.
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