The Toronto Raptors have relieved coach Dwane Casey of his duties after seven seasons on the job. The news of his ousting was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed shortly thereafter by the Raptors.
Statement from Raptors president Masai Ujiri on Coach Dwane Casey's firing: pic.twitter.com/FT4m0tSfEr- Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) May 11, 2018
"After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take. As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level," Ujiri said in a statement released by the team on Friday. "We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that."
Casey was named the eighth head coach in Raptors history June 21, 2011. He posted a 320-238 (.573) record during that span, including the only three 50-win seasons in team history. Under Casey, the Raptors won four Atlantic Division titles and advanced to the postseason in a franchise record five consecutive seasons. He was the longest-tenured coach in team history and is the franchise's all-time winningest coach.
Casey led the Raptors to a team-record 59-23 mark in 2017-18 and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But the Raptors were swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Cleveland Cavaliers, setting in motion an earlier-than-expected offseason for Toronto. Two days ago, Casey was named the NBCA Coach of the Year, an award that is voted on by a panel of his coaching peers.
After the Raptors' playoff ouster, Casey spoke candidly with the media and, at the time, sounded confident he would be with the team.
"Nobody has told me differently," he told reporters on Wednesday. "Until then I'm here still fighting. I'm still here.
"I don't expect a vote of confidence [from Ujiri] ... I've read all the articles, texts, all this stuff. I understand what's been said. I'm not in the dark, but I'm not looking for a vote of confidence because I haven't heard anything different."
Casey also said he recognized how the criticism falls on him after the type of series Toronto endured.
"It's part of the business," Casey said. "I'm a big boy. I've been through it. I know what we've accomplished and how the basketball world respects what we're doing. It's part of the territory. I accept it. I'm not running from it. ... I'm an easy target ... I don't feel sorry for myself, let's put it that way. "
At that same news conference, Ujiri said he plans to look at the roster and team as a whole and make assessments as to the future of it. In short, the next steps for the team at large is entering an evaluation process, Ujiri said, which will take place in the coming weeks.
"We are absolutely disappointed with the ending of the season," Ujiri said. "I think our guys are tough enough. They've fought through it. To win in this league, you have to go through different stages ... You build from that experience.
"To me, it's not doomsday. Where our program is, it's not doomsday."
Toronto's deepest playoff run came in 2016 when it lost to the eventual-champion Cavaliers in a six-game Eastern Conference finals.
After their record season, though, the Raptors' series loss to the Cavs was as tough a defeat as All-Star DeMar DeRozan has endured.
"This is probably the toughest, most frustrating, difficult, lowest feeling I've had," DeRozan said Tuesday. "You get to that point where you're standing firm through everything and you feel like you can't get knocked down again, and you realize you do get knocked back down again. It's kind of the worst feeling."
"We felt like we could possibly make the NBA Finals," Lowry said. "That was our goal."
The series slipped away after a Game 1 loss in which the Raptors coughed up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, missed multiple potential winning baskets, and lost 113-112 in overtime.
Toronto nearly rallied to win Game 3, but James banked in a remarkable tie-breaking basket at the buzzer.
Neither Lowry nor DeRozan directly endorsed Casey on Tuesday, but both spoke glowingly about their coach.
"All of my success, I have to credit Casey," DeRozan said. "No matter what, I'm always going to have the utmost respect when it comes to coach Casey."
Lowry acknowledged he and Casey have clashed over the years, but said he's "always believed in him."
"He's one of the best coaches out there," Lowry said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.