The Toronto Raptors have fired Dwane Casey two days after he was announced as the National Basketball Coaches Assn.’s coach of the year.
“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement Friday. “As a team we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level.
Casey coached the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins this season and their first-ever top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. He’s the only coach in team history to have won 48 or more games in a season, and he’s done so the last five years in a row.
The Raptors have also made the playoffs five years in a row for the first time ever, advancing to the conference finals two years ago. But they haven’t been able to get past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in each of the last three seasons, including sweeps in the semifinal round this year and last.
Overall, Casey is 320-238 in seven seasons with the Raptors.
“We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future,” Ujiri stated. “He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”
Talking to reporters on Wednesday, Casey acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding his future with the team but said that he was going to keep doing his job until he was told to do otherwise.
“I haven’t gone looking for a vote of confidence or anything like that because no one is saying anything different,” Casey said. “Until they do, I’m still here, still fighting, still scratching, still meeting with players. That’s all I can do.”
Hawks to hire Lloyd Pierce as next coach
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.
The Hawks announced Friday they had agreed to terms on a deal with Pierce.
“It was critically important to find a dynamic teacher who could connect with and develop our young core while instilling the culture and high standards we feel are necessary in a successful program,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said in a statement. “Lloyd Pierce checks every box, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him leading the Atlanta Hawks into the future.”
The Hawks have scheduled a Monday news conference to introduce Pierce.
Pierce, 42, spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach in Philadelphia where the 76ers just reached the Eastern Conference semifinals after finishing third in the conference with a 52-30 record. Pierce also spent two years as assistant coach with Memphis Grizzlies, including 2013 when they reached the 2013 Western Conference finals.
“This is a day I’ve been working toward for a long time and it’s an honor to be the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks,” Pierce said. “I have great respect for Travis and strong belief in his plan to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta. After spending time with ownership, it’s clear they have a deep investment in and commitment to making this a model organization. This opportunity is a perfect fit for me, and I’m eager to get started.”
Pierce also has been an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors in 2010-11, and he was assistant coach for player development with Cleveland between 2007-10, which included three playoff berths and a spot in the 2009 Eastern finals. Pierce started as an assistant coach at his alma mater at Santa Clara between 2002 and 2007. He played four seasons with two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash a teammate.
He replaces Mike Budenholzer who left last month after five seasons with Atlanta . The Hawks went 24-58 this season, which was worst in the Eastern Conference and tied with Dallas for the NBA’s third-worst record. But they were rarely blown out, losing 21 games by fewer than 10 points with only seven losses by 20 or more points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report