The reigning NBA coach of the year came to Minneapolis wearing a different hat, coaching a new team.
Dwane Casey coached Toronto to 59 victories and a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, his seventh with the franchise. But, because he again was unable to navigate past a LeBron James-led Cleveland team in the playoffs, he was let go.
Now he’s coaching the Pistons, who came to Target Center on Wednesday. Casey’s first head coaching job was with the Timberwolves, a one-plus season tour that ended with his being fired 40 games into the 2006-07 season by a franchise that still had Kevin Garnett and championship aspirations despite a roster that, in retrospect, makes Casey’s 20-20 record upon being fired look like a miracle.
Dwane Casey is a survivor.
“I’d rather be a sustainer,” Casey joked after the Pistons’ shootaround. “Someone who stays in one spot. I’d have rather stayed in Minnesota, stayed in Toronto. But that’s the NBA.”
Casey brought the Pistons here with a 14-14 record. He has a talented roster still trying to find its rhythm. History suggests it will.
Casey was hired by Toronto before the 2011-12 season, inheriting a 22-win team. The Raptors made the playoffs in the last five of his seven seasons. And then he was fired.
“Life is not fair,” Casey said. “You win coach of the year, you win conference? Life is not fair. It was [Toronto President Masai Ujiri’s] decision, I was told. I was told I couldn’t get past Cleveland, wasn’t creative to get past Cleveland. And so be it. If that’s what you want to fire me for, you have a lot of coaches in that long line.”
A lot changed, so much that Casey can only smile and shake his head. James left the East for the Lakers. The Raptors injected some championship pedigree to their roster with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
But that’s looking back. Casey is just happy to have landed in Detroit, though he was willing to wait awhile after being fired in Toronto.
“I was prepared to do that,” he said. “I first told [Detroit owner Tom Gores] no. I was going to sit out the year and see what happened. He convinced me, talked me into coming. And it wasn’t hard to do because of the fact that this team is right there.”
That wasn’t the case in Minnesota, and certainly wasn’t the case when Casey first went to Toronto.
Upon further review
For the record: Yes, Josh Okogie has watched the big second-quarter jam he had against Sacramento on Monday. Many times. And no, he’s not certain how, after momentum took him parallel to the ground after the dunk, he managed to avoid falling flat on his face.
“I don’t know how I landed that,” he said.
Then he gave some thanks to Sacramento’s Harry Giles III, Okogie’s former AAU teammate.
“Harry kind of braced me in the air,” Okogie said. “Kinda helped me land. So I appreciate him for that.”
• Karl-Anthony Towns started his 277th game. The last player to start 276 or more games to start a career was Russell Westbrook, who started 394 in a row from 2008 to 2013.
• Guard Jerryd Bayless was active for the first time since coming to the Wolves in the Jimmy Butler trade. Bayless, who did not play Wednesday, had been rehabbing a knee injury.