TORONTO – Masai Ujiri believes Dwane Casey deserves to be recognized as the best coach in the NBA, but the Toronto president doesn’t think Casey should be leading the Raptors.
So the Raptors fired Casey, praising him on his way out the door.
Hours after the Raptors announced they were parting ways with Casey on Friday — days after the team was swept in the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second straight season — Ujiri said he doesn’t think he will ever work with a better person.
“Nothing in particular that coach Casey did (was) wrong, but I think it was time for this to happen,” he said.
Casey led the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins this season as Toronto earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time. He posted a 320-238 record in seven seasons and is the franchise’s winningest coach.
“I hope coach Casey gets coach of the year, because he deserves it,” Ujiri said. “I saw everything he did here. I saw the job he did this year. He deserves it.”
James and Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said it was disappointing to hear that Casey had been fired, especially after the year the Raptors had.
“Probably within the last five years, I bet they’ve improved in winning percentage every single year,” James said. “But I guess their front office wants playoff success. That’s what it boils down to.”
On Tuesday, Casey was named coach of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, an award voted on by NBA head coaches. A media panel voted separately for the NBA’s coach of the year award, which will be announced June 25.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks are giving Lloyd Pierce his first head coaching job in the NBA, choosing a man who has been an assistant with Philadelphia and Memphis to rebuild the franchise.