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Raptors introduce defensive-minded Casey

11:42 AM, Jun 22, 2011   |    comments
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Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - When the Toronto Raptors opted to relieve former head coach Jay Triano of his duties, the search for his replacement was on in full force, as a number of other teams were also in the hunt for a new bench boss and quality candidates were sparse.

It may be too early to say, but the Raps appear to have come out of the coaching chase with the best choice for the organization - former Dallas Mavericks assistant and defensive guru, Dwane Casey.

There was no secret in what made Casey such an alluring candidate; his defense-first approach. It was behind his defensive tutelage the Mavs attained their first NBA title and has kept the 54-year-old involved in coaching in the NBA for more than two decades.

"I'm excited about this opportunity, there's so many areas that we want to get to work on, develop, [and] improve, but No. 1 is creating defensive identity and creating an atmosphere of hard play," said Casey during his introductory press conference at the Air Canada Centre. "I think that's something that's very important in the NBA, establishing that culture of hard play."

This won't be the first head coaching experience Casey has endured in his time in the NBA, as he had a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves that ended abruptly with little success. Though he may be regarded as a career assistant, like his predecessor, the amount of praise he's received endorsing his abilities may be an indication he's up to the task.

"He comes with exceptional support from people in very high places. There's a lot of people that are rooting for Dwane to do well here," said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. "They think it's the right time."

"I think he's got a great opportunity to truly connect with this young group. It's an eager group, Jay did a fantastic job setting the stage, I believe, for Dwane. But this is a chance for us to focus on some of the things that we've been talking about in terms of building a better defensive program...everything that we set out to find I believe is sitting next to me today."

The man sitting beside Colangelo will be the third coach under the GM's reign and the second handpicked during his five-year tenure, suggesting this may be the last coach he sees through the door before it's his job that's at stake. The hiring of Casey marks only the second time in franchise history the Raptors hired coach with previous head coaching experience - the other being Lenny Wilkens.

If there was an underlying theme to the introduction it would be stressing the importance defense will play for the coming season.

"Defensively, I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak," said Casey. "Offensively, I'm going to trust and give them freedom. The players will know how important the defense is and I want to make us a tougher defensive team, but I want the defense to be fun.

"We want to make sure people feel us when they cut through the lane. And that's a mindset, and that's having a disposition, a bad disposition, when people come through your paint."

Whether he can convince a team better known for its matador style of perimeter defense and nonexistent presence around the rim than its defensive aptitude will be the story to watch as the season progresses. Considering Toronto ranked in the bottom five in points against (26th) and opponent's field goal percentage (29th), Casey certainly will have his work cut out for himself.

How his stern approach to defense affects certain players, most notably Andrea Bargnani, will also be a story to watch throughout the season.

"The only thing I can control is playing time," said Casey. "Our players will know that if they don't do their job defensively, their playing time will be sitting next to me. I don't want players to like me, I want players to respect me."

Though he may emphasize the importance of limiting opponent's opportunities, challenging and competing hard, the approach on the offensive end something his players will enjoy hearing - keep it simple.

"The last time I checked, the reason why you win games is scoring, so we're going to put a high premium on that too," said Casey. "We want to keep the pace up tempo with our young team because we have the athleticism."

At first glance, it appears Casey is saying all the right things and addressing the most glaring concerns that surround the team. But until the players take the floor for the first time, we won't know if he's doing the all the right things.

For the time being, however, Raptor fans can rejoice they have someone who may be able to revive them from the depths of obscurity.

The Sports Network

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