- Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey speaks to media at an end-of-season availability in Toronto, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press via AP)
TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors have fired Dwane Casey after the team was swept in the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers for second straight season.
Toronto President Masai Ujiri on Friday said the move was a “very difficult but necessary step.”
“As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level,” Ujiri said in the statement released by the team.
Ujiri thanked Casey for what he has done for the organization, saying Casey was “instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team.”
The Raptors will hold a news conference Friday afternoon and are expected to provide more details on the decision to part ways with Casey.
The move comes two days after Casey was honored as coach of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association.
Casey, 61, led the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins and a top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time. He posted a 320-238 record and is the franchise’s winningest coach.
The Raptors won four Atlantic Division titles and advanced to the postseason five consecutive seasons. But Toronto could not get past Cleveland in the playoffs.
Uriji and Casey met for two-hours Wednesday, after which Uriji the Raptors were “absolutely disappointed” at their playoff exit. He had demanded a “culture reset” last spring, leading a greater emphasis on ball movement, depth, and 3-point shooting.
Kyle Lowry was equally dejected in the team’s playoff performance, calling it a “wasted year” Tuesday when players were cleaning out their lockers.
“We felt like we could possibly make the NBA Finals,” Lowry said. “That was our goal.”
Both Lowry and teammate DeMar DeRozan spoke glowingly of Casey earlier this week.
DeRozan credited Casey with all of his success and Lowry said he was “one of the best coaches out there.”
But Casey could not solve the Cavaliers and LeBron James puzzle.
Casey insisted on Wednesday that “the gap is closing” between the Raptors and Cavaliers, who ousted Toronto form the postseason for the third year in a row.
“A lot of folks have run up against Cleveland in the last few years and had the same challenge and it went down the same way,” he said. “That’s the mountain this organization has to climb.”
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